Season Three

Episode Three: Hole In The World

By irismay42

Part One

Leicester, MA

“It was the size of a whale, I tell ya!”

Joey Wheatcroft rolled his eyes and tightened his grip on his fishing rod, momentarily mesmerized by the movement of the silver spinner dancing on the end of his line just beneath the surface of the water. “Grandpa, I so don’t believe you,” he huffed, shaking his head without taking his eyes off his lure.

His grandfather Ernie, a sprightly sexagenarian with a thick shock of unruly white hair and a cantankerous glint in his bright blue eyes, squinted sideways at the twelve-year-old, lips pursed in an effort to suppress a grin. “Oh you don’t, huh?”

Joey glanced quickly at him. “Trout the size of a whale?” he echoed. “In the Quabaug?” He blew out a breath noisily. “I don’t think so.”

Ernie’s eyes virtually disappeared beneath frowning snowy eyebrows. “Boy,” he said, puffing out his chest as his own spinner glinted wildly in front of him. “I been fishing this river since I was younger ’un you and twice as canny. And if you don’t believe me, you can just look it up on that there world wide whaddayamacallit of yours. The year I caught Ole’ Bessie, the trout were so big one fish’d feed a family o’ six for nigh on a week!”

Joey sniggered. “Okay, Cap’n Ahab,” he snorted. “I get it. No such thing as McDonald’s when you were a kid, right? If you wanted to eat it, you had to catch it and kill it, and then you had to lick the road clean the whole ninety-seven miles you had to walk to school with no shoes on every day...”

“Wise ass,” Ernie retorted. “And it was ninety-eight miles,” he added, a grin creeping across his face just as his grandson’s attention snapped back to the river, a sudden hard insistent tug tautening his line.

“Grandpa!” the boy burst out excitedly. “Grandpa, I think I got something!”

Ernie carefully laid his own rod on the riverbank as he scuttled over to investigate what his grandson had biting. “Let’s see what you got there, junior.”

“Whoa!” Joey burst out, a sudden jerk on his line almost pulling him right off his feet.

Ernie quickened his pace, coming up behind his grandson and adding his own weather-beaten hands to the boy’s fishing rod, one arm on either side of the kid in an effort to avoid him being dragged any further down the bank towards the river.

“Wow, Grandpa, this thing has to be even bigger than Ole’ Bessie! Like – like – the size of Moby Dick or something!

Ernie narrowed his eyes and frowned. “Or somethin’” he agreed uncertainly, squinting into the murky water as dark shapes began to gather just beneath the surface.

“Grandpa?” Joey’s tone faltered, fingers slipping on the fishing rod, just as the eager smile slipped from his face. “Grandpa, what is it?”

Ernie’s frown deepened, as did the watery shadows in front of them, a darkness fanning out as far as they both could see, upstream and down. “Joey, son, let go of the rod,” he instructed cautiously, slowly attempting to ease his grandson further up the bank.

“But Grandpa –” Joey began to protest, just as an odd popping sound preceded the body of a small trout inexplicably bobbing to the surface of the river mere feet from where they stood, floating on its side as dead eyes stared at nothing.

“Joey –”

Another pop was followed by another corpse, another dead fish rising helplessly to the surface of the river just as another pop heralded another. And another. And another. Corpse after corpse bursting to the surface until the water was all but obscured by the throng of dead bodies choking it, fish, frogs, even the odd bird carcass dotted amongst the carnage.

Joey’s eyes widened as he stared at the choked surface of the river. “Grandpa?” he asked quietly.

“Joey, let go of the line,” Ernie repeated, tone deadly serious as his face paled considerably. “Now, son.”

“But –”

Before Joey could argue further, a sudden jolt almost yanked the rod right out of their hands, both grandfather and grandson hanging on for dear life as the pole bent almost to breaking point. Before Ernie could warn him against it, Joey was yanking in the reel like a man possessed, tugging on the line as a dark shape began knifing through the water toward him, closer and closer until Joey slowly realized that what was snagged on the hook most definitely wasn’t a fish.

Ernie squinted at the dark shape being inexorably dragged to the surface of the murky river on the end of his grandson’s line, the hook beginning to tear through already-tattered fabric enshrouding something that look uncomfortably like a human arm…

“Grandpa!” Joey burst out, instantly dropping the rod as first blue-tinged fingers, then an arm, and finally the remainder of a hideously bloated corpse bobbed soundlessly to the surface of the river.

Ernie had dropped the rod the second his grandson had, gathering up the boy in his arms and backing them both away from the water just as another dark mass broke the river’s surface, human arms and legs drifting at odd angles beside another unnaturally swollen torso.

Ernie swallowed as yet another human corpse gently bobbed to the surface. And another. And another, just like the fish and the birds.

“Holy Mother of God,” he breathed, as the entire length of the river, now choked with bobbing corpses both animal and human, slowly began to turn a deep blood red…


Outside of Leicester, MA
One week later

“Nutjobs?”

Sam glanced up from the half-tree of notepaper he had laid out across his lap, shot a disapproving look sideways at his brother, his mouth hanging slightly open somewhere between dismay and disgust, before clamping his jaw shut again in frustration and staring straight out through the windshield.

“Dean,” he ground out on a sigh, closing his eyes and taking in a deep breath as he silently prayed for an inexhaustible supply of patience, something that seemed to have become a necessity when spending large amounts of time in the company of his older brother. “They’re not ‘nutjobs.’”

“Sam,” Dean echoed his brother’s sigh; on purpose, Sam was sure. “Excuse me, but wasn’t the whole point of us coming here because half the town has inexplicably turned nuttier than a barrel full of squirrels in a Snickers factory?”

“It’s called schizophrenia, Dean,” Sam corrected his brother for what felt like the fiftieth time that day. “It’s a distressing and life-altering illness that can destroy not only the lives of the people who are afflicted with it, but also their loved ones.” He sighed again, more theatrically this time. “Would it kill you to show a little empathy every once in a while?”

Dean just looked at him. “Well pardon me for breathing, Dr. Doolittle,” he said at length. “If I’d known you were gonna go all After School Special on me I’d have pulled over and grabbed myself a pillow.”

Sam shook his head, too tired to argue. They’d had a rough few weeks, what with both of them nearly dying and everything, and neither of them were feeling completely up to par. “Whatever,” he said dismissively, before adding, “And it’s not half the town.” He rifled through his notes some more, hunting down the statistics he was after. “But there’s no denying the unnatural rise in the number of people being admitted to the local psych ward with sudden onset schizophrenia is…” he searched for the right word, “…troubling.” He stopped abruptly, looking up as if suddenly rewinding the tape playing in his head. “And Dr. Doolittle spoke to animals.”

Dean grinned, big and wide, and Sam rolled his eyes, finally realizing what his brother was up to. Ever since Wyoming, since the battle with Haris, since the loss of the other psychic kids and of Gudrun in the wilds of Canada, not to mention the unexpected revelation that Luciano Ferinacci was none other than Lucifer himself, Dean seemed to have made it his personal mission to try and keep Sam’s mind off recent events, the “dumb” card being the latest in a long line of dubious diversions ranging from a whole day full of off-color limericks to a unscheduled stop at a lap-dancing club. “Had you goin’ though, huh?” the older brother teased. “You know sometimes I’m offended at how stupid you think I am.”

“I don’t think you’re stupid, Dean –” Sam began to protest, before catching the teasing glint in his brother’s eye. “Would you be serious for five seconds?” he demanded, trying desperately to maintain an air of authority despite the reluctant chuckle tickling at the corners of his mouth.

Dean frowned. “I dunno,” he said. “Five seconds is a long time to be serious.”

Sam affected his most long-suffering sigh. “Dean, I appreciate this sudden joie de vivre you’re exhibiting –” this time Dean’s look of confused non-comprehension was genuine. “But we’re on a job here!”

Dean huffed. “What makes you think it’s a job?” he asked. “People turn nutty –” he shrugged as Sam frowned at him, “– have sudden mental health issues all the time. Doesn’t make it our kind of problem.”

“No,” Sam agreed. “But in this one town, the crime rate has risen three hundred percent in the last two weeks. Violent crime now accounts for ninety-five percent of all calls received by the local police department, and reports of sudden and unprovoked violent assaults have gone through the roof. Leicester is rapidly becoming Massachusetts’ most potentially explosive powder keg.”

Dean grinned again. “Sounds like my kinda town!”

Sam shook his head. “Over a hundred people have been admitted to the local hospital in the last two weeks alone, Dean,” he continued. “Most of them acting violently and irrationally, many of them claiming to be ‘hearing voices,’ people in their heads telling them what to do.”

Dean frowned, becoming suddenly serious without Sam even having to ask him to be. “Hearing voices?” he echoed thoughtfully, obviously having forgotten he’d been playing dumb two seconds earlier. His fingers unconsciously began tapping against the Impala’s steering wheel in time to Matchbox Twenty’s Mad Season before he suddenly realized the irony of what he was listening to. He glanced at the radio and shrugged slightly before adding, “You know, the symptoms of schizophrenia aren’t that different to the symptoms of demonic possession.”

Sam nodded, relieved Dean was finally catching on to his line of thinking. “Exactly,” he agreed. “And that’s not all that’s going on in this town.”

Dean arched an eyebrow. “There’s more?”

“At least twelve people have thrown themselves into the Quabaug River in the last two weeks alone,” Sam informed him. “And those weren’t the only people driven to suicide in the area recently.”

Dean pursed his lips for a second. “That is weird,” he commented, as a road sign flashed by declaring they had entered Leicester’s environs.

Sam grinned almost as big as Dean had earlier. “Wanna hear the real kicker?” he asked, as if triumphantly pulling a rabbit out of a well-used top hat.

“Do I get a choice?”

“Leicester has another claim to fame.”

“Aside from being a town full of nutjobs?”

Sam huffed. “Spider Gates Cemetery,” he said expectantly, as if Dean should know what that was.

Dean squinted at him. “Sam, you tell me we’ve got some more freaky-deaky relatives buried in this burg and I swear –”

“No, Dean,” Sam said. “Spider Gates Cemetery.” Dean looked at him blankly. “The Eighth Gateway to Hell?”

“The what now?” Dean shook his head dismissively. “Come on, Sammy, everyone knows there’s only seven…”

Sam nodded enthusiastically. “So the stories go,” he agreed, “the Seventh Gateway being –”

“Stull Cemetery near Lawrence,” Dean finished for him, nodding a little hesitantly. “Yeah, I know.” A wistful smile played at the corners of his mouth. “You know, I remember Dad taking me there once when I was little. Y’know. Before.” He shrugged again. “He said he was teaching me local history but Mom said he was just gonna freak me the hell out.”

Sam smiled wistfully. “Were you?” he asked.

Dean glanced over at him. “Was I what?”

“Freaked the hell out?”

“Sam I was four. There was no such thing as monsters back then and Hell was just someplace Mom told me I was headed if I didn’t eat my broccoli or say my prayers at night.”

Sam looked away. “Yeah,” he said quietly, wishing he remembered times like those. “I guess.”

Dean picked up on Sam’s sudden change in mood, biting his lip and trying to think of something neutral to say. All he could think of was, “So Eighth Gateway to Hell, huh?”

Sam nodded, as if only just remembering what they were talking about. “It’s one of the local urban legends,” he said. “There’s all the usual literature – ghost sightings, cold spots, weird vibes and odd noises.”

“Like being at a Celine Dion concert,” Dean offered.

Sam cracked a reluctant smile. “But a helluva lot cheaper.”

“And probably a lot more fun.” Dean grimaced. “I dunno,” he continued, sounding a hell of a lot less than convinced. “You think the one thing has anything to do with the other?”

Sam shrugged one shoulder. “Like you said, schizophrenia and demonic possession can look a whole lot alike to the untrained eye. Way back in the day, people with schizophrenia were burned at the stake because they were believed to be possessed by demons.”

“So you think demons are coming out of this so-called Hellgate and possessing the locals?” Dean frowned. “Seems like a stretch to me.”

Sam nodded. “Yeah, I know,” he said. “But something’s sure as hell turning these people into –” he stopped abruptly, wincing as the grin returned full force to light up Dean’s face.

“Nutjobs?” he offered.

Sam shook his head and clamped his jaw shut tightly, unwilling to rise to the bait for a second time.

Dean smirked. “C’mon, Sammy!” he burst out, eyes skittering sideways to glance at his brother. “Wouldn’t hurt you to smile every once in a while. It’s therapeutic. Uses way more muscles than frowning…”

Sam’s eyes suddenly narrowed as he squinted off into the distance. “Dean.”

“Sam?”

Sam turned and looked at him, gesturing urgently out the window. “Pull over.”

“Huh?” Dean’s attention lurched back to the road in front of him, just in time to narrowly avoid plowing into a line of stationary vehicles which were completely blocking the blacktop. “What the…?”

Slamming his foot on the brake, Dean managed to pull the big Chevy off onto the side of the road just in time to avoid flattening the little Ford at the back of the line, bringing the car to a dead stop only a few feet to the rear of a large crowd of people gathering around the footings of an old, rusted-up bridge straddling the Quabaug River.

“Man, I got a bad feeling about this…” Dean muttered, shoving open the driver’s door and swinging his feet out onto a graveled parking area between the road and the riverbank he figured was no doubt used by the local fishermen. And parking couples.

“Just keep smiling,” Sam told him, himself exiting the Impala. “It’s therapeutic.”

“Shut up,” Dean returned none-too-kindly, craning his neck to try and catch a glimpse of whatever the hell everyone was staring at. “Can you put that freakish height of yours to good use and see what’s going on?”

Sam shook his head. “Too many people,” he said, following Dean as he began to slowly edge forward into the crowd. “But I gotta say, whatever it is, I don’t think it’s gonna be good.”

Sam wasn’t kidding. Half of the crowd looked like their dog just died while the other half looked like their team just lost the Superbowl.

“Repent! Repent!” A loud booming voice suddenly cut through the subdued hum of lowered voices, the attention of the crowd turning as one to a black-garbed man standing on an upturned crate near the river. He was younger than he looked, Dean figured, maybe in his early thirties, black hat pulled down over unkempt sandy hair and piercing blue eyes looking out of a pale, drawn face. “The End Times are upon us!” the man continued, gesturing heavenward with a leather-bound black Bible in his right hand. “Repent! Repent! Hide your faces and look not upon the wrath of God!”

Dean raised an eyebrow. “Uh-oh,” he muttered. “So that’s ‘Nutjob’ with a capital ‘N,’ huh?”

He pushed deeper into the crowd, Sam close behind him, the two of them drawing closer to the preacher as the people in the crowd began to mutter amongst themselves, fear palpable in the very air surrounding them.

“For so the prophet says,” the preacher continued, gesturing behind him with flailing arms. “And the third angel poured out his vial upon the rivers and fountains of waters; and they became blood…!

“Blood?” Dean repeated a little incredulously, finally breaking through the last line of frightened onlookers and finding himself standing on the riverbank. “What the hell is this doofus talking about…?”

Which was when he caught sight of the River Quabaug, blood red and liberally littered with the floating corpses of rotting fish.

“Oh,” he said shortly.

And I heard the angel of the waters say, Thou art righteous, O Lord, which art, and wast, and shalt be, because thou hast judged thus,” the preacher continued animatedly. “For they have shed the blood of saints and prophets, and thou hast given them blood to drink…

Sam appeared at Dean’s shoulder, peering over with widening eyes at the sight of the bloody river. “That’s not –” he began, but stuttered to a halt almost immediately. “I mean – it can’t be –”

“The End of Days is upon us!” the preacher continued. “As the prophet John foretold in his Revelation of God! Repent! Repent now, ye sinners of the earth!”

“It’s a trick,” Dean muttered, eyes never straying from the hideous scene laid out at his feet. “Gotta be –”

“This much blood?” Sam said, shaking his head in disbelief. “I mean, even if you collected every drop from every person who drowned themselves, it would still never be enough to fill up an entire river…”

“Repent!” the preacher continued to exhort the now cowering crowd. “Repent and renounce your wickedness! For God has seen into your hearts – seen into your souls – seen into this sinners’ paradise you once called ‘home!’ At the whim of these evil outsiders you have allowed your home to be corrupted into a den of iniquity! And you do nothing to prevent this sacrilege! This desecration! God has seen and God has despaired! God has seen and God has acted! See your river –” he cast his arm in a wide arc to encompass the bloody water. “Your life-spring. Your sustenance. It has become as blood as the prophet foretold! As the men who walked these lands before us foretold! For when those who spoke the Algonquin tongue named this river ‘Quabaug’ – ‘red water’ – ‘bloody pond’ – surely they foresaw this time in which we find ourselves despoiled and debased. Tarnished and corrupted. Sinning through inaction. You allow these demons into your town where they shall create their Hell on Earth!”

“Demons?” Dean echoed. “Seriously?”

Sam shook his head. “If the original Native American settlers in this area named the river ‘red water’ then there’s got to be a logical explanation.”

“Like heavy clay deposits or something?” Dean looked up at Sam hopefully.

“Maybe,” he agreed. “Or it could just be some really elaborate prank. Someone coloring the water…”

“And killing all the local wildlife?” Dean interjected. “Not to mention enticing the local populace to throw themselves in. That’s some seriously whacked out prank if you ask me!”

“It’s not a prank.”

The brothers turned in the direction of the deceptively calmly-spoken words, to where a stocky young black guy in his late twenties, maybe early thirties, was eyeing them solemnly as he fiddled unconsciously with the plastic ID card clipped to his jacket. Dean couldn’t read the text from that distance, but he recognized the logo of the local water company.

“And it’s not dye, either,” the young man continued, gazing at them levelly. “That’s real human blood.”

Sam did a double take, blinking owlishly at the guy. “But –” he stammered, eyes skipping back to the river then back to the young man. “Blood? I mean… It can’t be blood blood, right?”

If Sam was this tongue-tied, Dean figured his little brother must be pretty damn freaked. And he wasn’t far behind him.

“Repent ye sinners!” The preacher chose that moment to exclaim loudly. “Repent or be cast into the pit of Hellfire for all eternity…!”

ID card guy sighed. “Elijah Warriner,” he said, tipping his head in the preacher’s direction. “Don’t mind him, he’s a little –” he paused, selecting the right adjective, “– enthusiastic.”

Dean raised an eyebrow. “We can see that,” he agreed. “What’s his story anyway?”

“Started off as a Sunday school teacher,” the young man said, shrugging slightly. “Got a little bit obsessed with it all.” He laughed mirthlessly. “We were in high school together. Can you believe it?”

Dean grimaced. “Must have been a blast at pep rallies.”

ID card guy sniggered ironically. “Oh yeah,” he confirmed, grinning broadly before suddenly sticking out his hand in Dean’s direction. “Malik Lloyd,” he introduced himself.

Dean nodded in greeting, grasping the young man’s hand. “Dean –” he stumbled briefly, trying to remember the name on his current credit card. “– Reeve,” he managed, a blinding flash of insight reminding him he was working his way through Supermen. He’d had to draw the line at “Cain” though. “My brother, Sam.”

Malik nodded at Sam before shaking his hand in turn. “You guys reporters or something?” he asked a tad suspiciously.

The brothers glanced at one another. “Or something,” Dean agreed with a sly grin.

“How do you know that’s real blood in the river?” Sam asked quickly, nodding in the direction of the bloodied water in an effort to change the subject.

“I’m an engineer at the water processing plant upriver,” Malik replied. “Tested it myself. You should have seen this place a week ago. You think this is bad now…”

“Well, yeah, actually,” Dean put in. The look on the engineer’s face prompted him to add, “It was worse?”

Malik sighed. “This is what it looks like after we dredged out the dead bodies.”

Sam swung back in Malik’s direction, broken from his contemplation of the river. “Bodies?”

“Um-hmm,” Malik confirmed. “Fish. Birds.” He paused. “Not to mention the townspeople who’ve thrown themselves in here these past couple of weeks.”

“There were human remains in the river?” Dean clarified, his frown deepening by the second.

“Oh yeah,” Malik confirmed. “Just floated up to the top. Same time the whole river-turning-to-human-blood thing happened.”

“But… How is that even possible?” Sam asked.

“Besides Apocalypse Now y’mean?” Malik clarified.

Dean chuckled despite the dire circumstances, liking this guy’s sense of humor. Twisted, like his own. “Yeah,” he said. “Besides that.”

Malik shrugged. “Beats the hell outta me. Up until a week ago this was one of the best fishing spots in the county. Now…” He trailed off, gesturing futilely at the expanse of bloodied water.

“What happened a week ago?” Sam asked, seizing on the engineer’s words astutely.

Malik regarded him for a second, as if trying to gauge whether he was friend or foe, before leaning forward and, in a lowered voice, asking, “You’re not from New Jersey, right?”

Sam just looked at him before casting an uncertain glance in Dean’s direction. “Uh – no,” he managed after a slight pause, before adding an inquisitive, “Why?”

“No reason,” Malik laughed awkwardly, stepping back a pace. He glanced at Dean for a second before shrugging and turning his attention back to Sam. “Nah. Didn’t peg you two as Tony Soprano types.” When the Winchesters just stared at him blankly, he continued, “About eight days ago, some company out of New Jersey broke ground on their redevelopment of an old cannery site a couple of miles upriver – about halfway between here and the water processing plant. Been in the planning stages for months, but nobody round here really thought they’d ever get the go ahead.”

“New Jersey?” Dean shifted uncomfortably, his and Sam’s most recent forays into that state tending to end badly.

Malik’s uncomfortable laugh returned, but he was grinning wide, as if trying to convince the newcomers this was all really one big joke to him.

Or maybe he was trying to convince himself, Dean observed.

“Hey, I’m not saying every company outta New Jersey is a subsidiary of Corleone Inc or anything,” Malik continued. “But I – I kinda heard bad things about this company – ethically, environmentally. You know what I’m saying?”

“You think they did something to the river?” Sam asked.

“All I know,” Malik said, “is that the water’s fine when it leaves the plant. By the time it gets here, it’s –” he paused, “– not.”

“And the redevelopment broke ground eight days ago?”

“A day before this happened.”

“What are they building?” Dean put in suddenly, eyes drifting once again to the Quabaug.

Malik’s sardonic chuckle didn’t sound particularly amused. “That ‘den of iniquity’ the preacher’s spouting off about?” he explained. “Well they’re calling it a ‘recreational leisure complex.’”

“Which, in English, means…?”

“Giant casino,” Malik translated. “Couple of lap-dancing clubs. Themed stripjoint.”

“Themed…?”

“Dean.” Sam cut his brother off before he could show too much interest.

“What?” Dean asked innocently.

“Cowgirls and Indian squaws,” Malik supplied. “Doctors and nurses. Goths and vampires. You get my drift?”

The Winchesters exchanged another uncertain glance.

Sam cleared his throat awkwardly. “Vampires?”

“Yeah, y’know – fake teeth, pale skin. Leather.”

“So, more Blade than Buffy?” Dean clarified.

“Hey, who knows, man? Bunch of freaky weirdos if you ask me.”

“And a bunch of heathen sinners if you ask him,” Sam observed, nodding in the direction of Elijah Warriner, who was still exhorting the crowd to repent if they wanted to avoid the plague of open sores and the endless nighttime Saint John predicted would accompany the bloody river.

Malik considered the preacher for a second. “I don’t know if this is a sign of God’s wrath,” he said slowly, “or the sign of an environmentally unsound corporation dumping their toxic crap into our river and hoping we won’t notice –”

“What could they be dumping that would turn an entire river into human blood?”

That was the sixty-four thousand dollar question, and Sam certainly didn’t have an answer.

Neither did Malik, who shook his head, sighing heavily. “Beats me, man.”

“Repent!” Warriner’s voice had risen several decibels, drowning the Winchesters’ and the engineer’s conversation and drawing their attention back in the direction of the preacher. “The End of Days is upon us!” he declared. “See the blood of the unholy who have squandered God’s greatest gift of life by casting themselves into this abhorrent water! The current washes away their souls into the Pit, and you will all follow if you do not repent this folly and return to the Light! Repent! For the End Times approach! Do you not see? This is a Sign. The End of Days approach! Lucifer’s time is at hand! The Beast will rise up to claim the earth!”

Dean shuddered involuntarily. “Sam –” he said quietly.

“I know,” Sam replied, not looking at his brother.

“Repent!”

A repeated popping sound behind them caused the brothers to turn back toward the Quabaug, bubbles of bloody water preceding murky shapes bobbing to the surface – fish, birds. Humans. Floating on the surface in one grisly mass of putrefying flesh.

“Repent!”

“Not again,” Malik sighed.

“Every living soul will be cast into the Pit!”

Fish. Birds. Humans.

“So pronounceth the Almighty…”

* * * *

Saint Vincent Hospital,
Worcester, MA

“So,” Dean said, stepping out of the lobby of Saint Vincent Hospital and into the elevator, barely waiting for Sam to join him before he started jabbing at the door control. “Rivers running with blood and half the town turning psycho overnight. You’re not telling me there’s not a connection there.”

Sam glanced up at the floor indicator as it blinked at him from above the elevator door, counting off each floor silently. “Nope,” he said decisively. “I’m not.” Dean looked at him expectantly and he lifted one shoulder in resignation. “Damned if I can tell you what it is though.”

Dean shook his head. “Stanford my ass,” he muttered. “This is the point where you’re supposed to dazzle me with your brilliant insight, Professor.”

Sam eyed his brother wryly. “My brilliant insight doesn’t believe in coincidence,” he offered as the elevator jerked to a halt and the doors slid smoothly open. “But beyond that I got nothing.”

“Dude, you’re really shattering my illusions here,” Dean declared, stepping off the elevator in his brother’s wake. “What’s that big brain of yours been doing all this time?”

Sam didn’t answer, shaking his head as he headed down the corridor, only stopping when Dean suddenly reached out and caught hold of his arm, effectively halting him in his tracks. He swung back to face his older brother, his expression a question mark. “What?” he asked uncertainly, a little thrown by the uncomfortable expression on Dean’s face.

“You don’t think –” Dean began, fidgeting from foot to foot before licking his lips uncertainly. “I mean – New Jersey. And – everything. Y’know? Eighth Gateway to Hell? And – I mean – you don’t think – you don’t think that maybe – y’know –” he paused. “I mean, you don’t think – Lucifer? Right?”

Sam looked at him for a long moment before attempting to shrug off his concerns. “Dean, what would Lucifer want with Leicester Massachusetts?” When Dean made no response, Sam shook his head as reassuringly as he was able. “Nah. I don’t see it.”

Dean considered Sam’s back as the younger brother turned away again, vividly remembering all those times when they were kids, when he’d used that exact same hollowly reassuring tone of voice on Sammy: “No, there’s no such thing as monsters,” or “Sure Dad’s coming back.” He didn’t know whether Sam had believed it then, and he sure as hell didn’t think he believed it now.

Swallowing the nagging fear to leave it gnawing persistently at his gut, Dean followed close on Sam’s heels as he made for a distinctly unwelcoming nurses’ station presided over by a distinctly unwelcoming nurse who would probably have made three of Sam, or maybe four of Dean. Her steel wool hair was scraped back into a migraine-inducingly tight bun at the nape of her neck, and she squinted at them over thick, black-framed spectacles, like a hawk looking for its next unsuspecting meal.

“Yes?” she snapped by way of greeting, and Dean shoved Sam hard in the small of his back, causing him to stumble forward a step until he was standing right in front of the woman, looking up at her with an expression that almost had Dean expecting his brother to ask, “Please ma’am, can I have some more?”

By the time Sam managed to find his voice enough to squeak, “We’re – uh – here to see Doctor Benjamin,” the nurse already appeared to have lost interest in them, turning her attention back to the paperwork in front of her.

“Name?” she demanded, more out of habit than anything else, not even looking back up at Sam.

“Reeve,” Sam supplied a lot more smoothly than Dean had earlier. “We’re from the University doing a paper on –”

“Yeah, yeah, yeah,” the nurse said, ticking something on the clipboard in front of her before gesturing toward the corridor to their right, still refusing to look back up at them. “Third door on the right. She’s expecting you.”

Sam hesitated for a second before making to follow the nurse’s directions, Dean just standing staring at her until she finally looked back up at him.

“You don’t happen to have a brother called Scotty, do ya?” he asked sweetly. “Lives in Burkitsville Indiana?” When the nurse just frowned at him, he nodded thoughtfully. “Same winning personality,” he commented. “Anyone would think you were twins.”

He was spared the wrath of the nurse by Sam suddenly grabbing a fistful of his jacket and tugging him away from the nurses’ station none-too-gently.

“Hey, watch the threads, man!” Dean protested, as Sam shoved him toward Doctor Benjamin’s office.

“Only if you watch your mouth,” Sam returned through gritted teeth. “Or do you want to be sacrificed to another scarecrow god?”

Dean considered that for all of a nanosecond. “Let’s go see this crusty old doctor shall we?”

“I think that’s a good idea,” Sam replied, continuing to push Dean down the corridor until they approached an off-white door with “Dr. R. Benjamin” stenciled on it in neat black lettering.

Raising his hand to rap on the door, Sam paused for a second, suddenly aware of the sounds emanating from the far end of the dingy corridor, where a barred doorway opened out into what looked like a dayroom. Various patients stumbled through their field of vision dressed in pajamas and robes, most of them muttering to themselves incoherently.

An elderly Asian man suddenly appeared at the doorway, fingers gripping the bars until his knuckles turned white. His eyes widened when he caught sight of the Winchesters and for no apparent reason he began screaming at them in a language that sounded distinctly like German.

“Whoa,” Dean muttered, trying to resist the dual urges to either take a step back away from the guy, or a step forward in front of Sam. “What’s his problem?”

A young nurse appeared at the screaming man’s shoulder, gently prying his fingers from the bars and patting his arm soothingly. “It’s okay, Johann,” she said softly. “It’s okay. Come sit down and I’ll get you a drink of water. That’s it. Come on.”

The Asian man gradually stopped yelling at the nurse’s ministrations, eyes still huge and staring as he let her guide him back into the dayroom, and Sam threw a questioning look in Dean’s direction.

Suddenly the door Sam was poised to knock at was yanked open and a pretty, olive-skinned woman in a white lab coat almost ran right into him.

Sam backed up a step as the young woman abruptly halted her forward momentum and blinked up at him. “Oh,” she said, smoothing a hand down her coat and tucking a loose strand of long curly black hair behind her ear. “I was just coming to see what all the ruckus was about.”

“One of the patients –” Sam jerked a thumb over his shoulder hesitantly.

“Ah,” the young doctor said. “Probably Mr. Wang. He gets a little over-excited when he sees outsiders.”

“He was speaking German,” Sam pointed out. “And the nurse called him ‘Johann.’”

“Yes,” the doctor agreed on a sigh, before turning a disarming smile up at him. “You must be Mr. Reeve?”

“Sam.” Sam shook the petite doctor’s outstretched hand before indicating his brother with a jerk of his head. “My brother Dean.”

Dean’s hundred-watt smile blatantly telegraphed his revised opinion of the doctor as he practically elbowed Sam out of the way in order to shake her hand. “Nice to meet you,” he said, and Sam was pretty sure that was an extremely censored version of what his brother was actually thinking.

An amused frown creased Dr. Benjamin’s brow for a second as she threw open her office door. “Come in,” she invited them. “And let’s see what I can do to help you.”

Sam jabbed a pre-emptive elbow in Dean’s ribs before he could make the unsuitable comment Sam just knew was on the tip of his tongue, and Dean just scowled at him as he followed him into the doctor’s little office.

“Please, sit.” She offered them both uncomfortable-looking plastic chairs before seating herself behind an untidy desk littered with various papers, folders, patients’ notes and charts. “Excuse the mess,” she smiled awkwardly. “I was writing up my notes.” She pushed some of the paperwork out of the way and leaned forward into the space she’d created on her blotter. “Now, what can I do for you?”

Dean narrowly avoided a yelp as Sam purposely kicked his foot, a strangled “Dude!” escaping his lips instead.

Sam smiled sunnily at the doctor. “Well, Doctor,” he began.

“Rosa,” the young woman interrupted. “‘Doctor Benjamin’ always makes me think my dad’s standing behind me!”

“Rosa,” Sam amended. “As I told you on the phone, we’re writing a paper on sudden onset schizophrenia, and from the news reports, your county seems to be suffering more than its fair share.”

Rosa nodded. “Most of my patients are from Leicester,” she told them. “A couple from Worcester. It’s the oddest thing. In the past two weeks we’ve had forty-seven new admissions, all diagnosed with some form of schizophrenia, and that’s just on the secure ward alone. But I have to say, I’ve been working with psych patients for six years and this isn’t like any kind of schizophrenia or multiple personality disorder I’ve ever seen.”

Sam sat forward slightly in his chair. “How so?” he asked, puppy dog eyes in full-on empathy mode.

Dean barely disguised a disgusted eye roll.

Rosa ran a hand across her brow, once more fussing at a loose lock of hair. “These people,” she said slowly. “They’re my neighbors, my friends. People I’ve known for years. Sure, some of the less acute cases are exhibiting a lot of the usual symptoms of schizophrenia – hearing voices, hallucinating, experiencing sudden mood changes or delusions. But the chronic cases we have up here… They’re not just acting as if something is trying to confuse them or influence their thought processes; they’re actually acting as if they’re completely different people; often crazed, irrational people. Almost as if a totally different personality has been superimposed over their own, taking them over. Almost like they’re – they’re –”

“Possessed?” Dean supplied with a smile that made it clear to the doctor he was just kidding.

“Something like that,” she conceded. “Sometimes they even respond to completely different names, often, as in Mr. Wang’s case, speaking a language their friends and relatives swear they never learned.” She looked the Winchesters over for a second before continuing. “You know he’s a successful businessman? Owns a string of restaurants and grocery stores. His parents came to this country from China when he was just a baby, but now he’s speaking German, insisting his name is Johann Lenz and claiming to be a Nazi officer stationed at Belsen.”

“Wow,” Dean whistled. “That’s kinda –”

“Weird?” Rosa finished for him. “Yes it is. But do you know what’s even weirder?” Sam and Dean both shook their heads. “There actually was a Nazi officer named Johann Lenz stationed at Belsen! He was killed when the camp was liberated by the British and Canadians in 1945. And he’s not the only one. Some of my patients…” She trailed off for a second, shaking her head almost as if she didn’t believe it herself. “Some of them give pretty accurate accounts of historical events as if they were actually there.”

Sam and Dean glanced at one another, before Sam asked tentatively, “Could we speak to some of them? I mean – if that’s okay. We don’t want to cause any trouble but it would really help with our paper…”

Rosa seemed to think that over for a moment before slowly nodding. “I don’t see that being a problem. Not all of our patients are violent.”

“That’s comforting,” Dean commented.

* * * *

The middle-aged woman perched on the edge of her chair, wringing her hands as they rested nervously in her lap. Her arms and her neck were covered in nasty welts and sores – something like psoriasis or eczema, Sam noted.

“This is Joanne Millward,” Dr. Benjamin introduced the woman. “She’s a schoolteacher in Leicester. Lived there all her life. Fifty-four years old. Grown up son and daughter. Husband’s a dentist.” She patted the woman gently on the shoulder. “Michael,” she said softly. “You want to tell these gentleman why you’re here?”

Sam frowned slightly as the woman responded to the name, continuing to wring her hands.

“It was New Years,” she said, a thick Brooklyn accent coloring her words. “I was out partying with the guys around the neighborhood.” She swallowed. “Had a few beers. A few too many, I guess.” She ran a shaking hand over her mouth. “Shouldn’t o’ been drivin’. I knew it then. But what the hell, I thought, it’s only a couple o’ blocks.” She shook her head. “Never saw the red light at the intersection. Ran my truck right into their car. Mom, Dad, two kids. All dead because o’ me. Because I was too stupid to walk and too cheap to spring for a cab.”

“What year was that, Michael?” Rosa asked.

“1974,” Joanne replied. “Those poor kids. Youngest was only three.”

Rosa looked up at the Winchesters before patting the woman on the shoulder again. “Thanks, Michael,” she said, beckoning the brothers to follow her to another table in the dayroom, where a well-built guy in his forties with a shaved head sat drawing daisies on a yellow legal pad. “Aaron Blakemore,” she said, inclining her head towards the man whose arms and scalp, Sam noticed, were covered in the same sores visible on Joanne’s skin. Glancing around the room, every patient here seemed to have the same ailment to some degree. “Aaron’s one of Leicester’s Finest,” Rosa continued. “Been a cop since he was nineteen. Five citations for bravery.” She gently patted the big man’s shoulder. “How are you feeling today, Agnes?” she asked.

The cop looked up at her, blinking. “Fine,” he said quietly. “A little better.”

“No more nightmares?”

“I keep seeing her,” the cop muttered.

“Sarah?”

Aaron nodded. “When they put the noose around her neck.” He looked up at Rosa then, tears in his eyes. “Why didn’t I stop it? Why didn’t I tell them it was me that was the witch, not my little sister!”

“You weren’t a witch, Agnes.”

“No more than she was,” he countered. “I let them take her – told the pastor she was a witch so they wouldn’t hang me! I denounced my sister as a witch in front of the entire congregation of Salem!” The big man hung his head. “Because I was afraid. May God have mercy upon me,” he whispered. “Me and my cowardice. She hanged for me, mistress. She hanged for me…”

Rosa patted the big cop’s shoulder again as he collapsed into sobs, turning a desperate gaze on the Winchesters as she did so. “We checked out the names,” she said slowly. “The people Aaron can describe – the events he claims to have seen. They all happened during the Salem Witch Trials, just as he tells it.”

Sam regarded Aaron’s broad shoulders, wracked with sobs. “And the sores?”

“Some form of psoriasis,” Rosa explained. “Can’t explain that any more than we can explain the schizophrenia.” She glanced down at Aaron. “Or whatever the hell this is.”

“Doc,” Dean said slowly. “All of these patients –” he gestured around the room. “They all have stories to tell like this?”

Rosa nodded. “Yes. And historically speaking they all seem to check out.” She stepped forward, raising her chin as if trying to emphasize the importance of what she was about to say next. “Every one of these people,” she said, taking in the room with one glance. “Every one of them seems to be recalling the life of someone who died years ago. Every single one of them.”

* * * *

Shirley’s Rest Stop Inn
Leicester, MA

“So the blood and the sores,” Dean said, working a well-worn key into the lock of room number seven at Shirley’s Rest Stop Inn and shoving the door open with his shoulder. “That’s all straight out of Revelations, right? Signs of the End of Days?”

Sam nodded, following his brother into the room and dumping his duffel on the nearest bed. “Yeah, pretty much,” he confirmed, sitting down heavily and pulling off his sneakers. “The sores were the first blight on those who bore the mark of the Beast –”

“I dunno, I didn’t see no 666 tattooed on Vic Mackey’s head back there.”

“Satan worshippers, Dean,” Sam explained. “In the Bible they were the ones who were afflicted with sores and boils.”

Dean made a face. “And that’s when the seas turned to blood, right?” he hazarded. “Then the rivers?”

Sam nodded. “Then great heat before total darkness. Like the man said: Apocalypse Now.”

“Man, I got a really bad feeling about this one,” Dean muttered, slumping down on the bed next to Sam.

“It’s not the End of Days, Dean,” Sam said with a degree of certainty that surprised even him. “It’s someone who knows their Bible, someone who knows which symbolic buttons to push.”

“And those people back in the psych ward?” Dean countered. “Who the hell was pushing their buttons? I mean – the Salem Witch Trials? Seriously?”

Sam ran a weary hand over his face and through his hair. “Okay, I agree, this is weird even on the Winchester scale of weirdness,” he said. He sighed heavily. “Look, I’m gonna hit the shower. Maybe we get a good night’s sleep it’ll all make sense in the morning.”

Dean flopped back on the bed. “Dude, when did our lives ever make sense in the morning?”

* * * *

Clouds of billowing steam followed in Sam’s wake as he finally stepped out of the bathroom, feeling slightly guilty for taking all the hot water, but considering it payback for all the times growing up he’d had to wait for both Dean and Dad to clear out of the bathroom before he could take his turn.

His guilt lessened still further when his gaze fell on his brother, who appeared to have collapsed exactly where Sam had left him, still-booted feet sticking out over the edge of the mattress, snoring softly, one arm thrown over his eyes.

Well at least he wouldn’t be wanting any hot water.

Sam briefly considered removing Dean’s boots, but fraternal responsibility only went so far, and instead he carefully untangled Dean’s wrist from the strap of his duffle and removed it to the other bed, pulling out a clean t-shirt and wondering whether Dean had done that on purpose: His big brother always had insisted on the bed nearest the door.

Yanking the t-shirt over his head, he glanced back at Dean, shook his head and sighed heavily, before proceeding to remove his older brother’s footwear. Dean never even stirred, which was a good thing because Sam was sure, had he woken, he would have insisted Sam was chick-flicking him, called him “Samantha” and then berated him for using all the hot water.

That little task complete, Sam barely had the energy to shift his duffle to the floor before he himself collapsed onto the other bed, seemingly asleep before his head even hit the pillow.

And yet, he couldn’t be sleeping because someone was talking to him.

He wanted to sit up, to glance over at Dean and ask him why he was disturbing his sleep with his chatter, but he couldn’t move and deep down inside of him he knew he wasn’t hearing Dean’s voice.

“You have to leave.”

It was a woman’s voice, knife-edged and icy cold, insistent and persuasive.

“No I don’t,” Sam heard himself say, although he knew his lips weren’t moving. “I was here first.”

“Possession is nine-tenths of the law, honey,” the voice insisted. “I came, I saw, I wanted your body. You probably get that a lot, huh?”

Sam didn’t answer.

“Don’t take advantage of it as much as that brother of yours, I’ll bet. He’s cute and all, but me, I like taller men.”

“That’s nice for you.” There was an indulgent smile in Sam’s voice that his brain really wasn’t feeling. “Now are you going to leave me alone and let me sleep in peace?”

“Oh I don’t think so, honeybunch. I been looking all day, and I finally found a model I want to take out for more than just a test drive. So here I am. And you’re in my body. Time for you to be gone.”

Somewhere in Sam’s muddied mind he wondered whether this was what it felt like to be possessed by a demon. Was this a demon? “This is my body,” he insisted stubbornly. “Time for you to be gone, I think.”

“Baby, don’t make me hurt you. We can do this amicably, right? It’s all really simple. I want this body and I don’t intend sharing. So you need to vacate the premises before I call in the repo men. They don’t take kindly to squatters.”

Wow, Sam found himself thinking, this was one obnoxious dream-demon. Mentally, he shrugged. He’d had weirder dreams. Bloodier dreams. Fire and ash and Why, Sam? dreams. Compared to those, this was just annoyingly vivid.

“Look, ma’am,” he said in his most politely patronizing tone of voice. “I’m flattered you think I’d make a nice vessel for someone such as yourself, really I am. But, besides the whole gender confusion thing you’d be stepping into, I’m really not ready to let you have my body right now. I’m kind of attached to it. You know, if you’d asked me a couple of weeks ago when my hand was all busted up, I might have considered your offer, but for right now, I really think you need to take a hike. With respect.”

“You call that respectful?”

“No, not really. I guess I’ve been spending too much time with my brother. He’s not really into social pleasantries.”

“You can’t win this, boy. I’m stronger than you.” The voice had changed slightly, subtly. Had even more of a frosty edge to it.

“No you’re not. You’re just annoying. I get death visions and was touched by a demon when I was a baby. You really want to get into a pissing contest with me?”

“You’ll regret this –”

“Oh, I don’t think I will.”

“We’ll take something more valuable –”

“Sorry, I left my Rolex and my stock portfolio at the summer house in the Hamptons. But you’re welcome to my dirty socks if you’d like.”

“You don’t want to defy me –”

“Yeah, actually you know what? I really think I do. Now get lost will ya? I’m trying to sleep.”

* * * *

Sam woke with a start, sitting bolt upright and wondering what the hell he’d just been dreaming about.

He had been dreaming, right?

Weird voice in his head, not wanting to share… That had been some vivid dream.

We’ll take something more valuable…

Wow, he really released his Inner Dean when he was dreaming, he marveled briefly. He’d sure kicked that skanky demon’s ass. Not exactly rapier wit, but he’d certainly told her where the hell to get off.

We’ll take something more valuable…

“Dean?” Sam flailed for the bedside light between the two beds, the other hand rubbing sleep out of his eyes. “Dean, wake up! I just had the weirdest dream…”

He blinked as the light snapped on, squinting at the lurid green digital clock on the nightstand showing 4.24am.

“Dean…?”

His eyes finally adjusting to the light, Sam managed to focus on the bed next to his, fully expecting to see his brother still laid flat out and fully clothed on top of the threadbare burgundy comforter.

“Dean?”

He blinked a few more times, sat up a little straighter.

We’ll take something more valuable…

“Dean!”

The bed was empty.

“Dean!”

 

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The Winchester Chronicles

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