Three: Hole In The World
was the size of a whale, I tell ya!”
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.
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?”
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.”
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!”
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...”
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
the boy burst out excitedly. “Grandpa, I think
I got something!”
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.”
Joey burst out, a sudden jerk on his line almost pulling
him right off his feet.
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.
Grandpa, this thing has to be even bigger than Ole’
Bessie! Like – like – the size of Moby Dick
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.
Joey’s tone faltered, fingers slipping on the
fishing rod, just as the eager smile slipped from his
face. “Grandpa, what is it?”
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.
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.
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
let go of the line,” Ernie repeated, tone deadly
serious as his face paled considerably. “Now,
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.
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…
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.
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.
swallowed as yet another human corpse gently bobbed
to the surface. And another. And another, just like
the fish and the birds.
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
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
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
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
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
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.”
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.”
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.”
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.
frowned. “I dunno,” he said. “Five
seconds is a long time to be serious.”
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!”
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.”
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
grinned again. “Sounds like my kinda town!”
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.”
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.”
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.”
arched an eyebrow. “There’s more?”
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.”
pursed his lips for a second. “That is weird,”
he commented, as a road sign flashed by declaring they
had entered Leicester’s environs.
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.
I get a choice?”
has another claim to fame.”
from being a town full of nutjobs?”
huffed. “Spider Gates Cemetery,” he said
expectantly, as if Dean should know what that was.
squinted at him. “Sam, you tell me we’ve
got some more freaky-deaky relatives buried in this
burg and I swear –”
Dean,” Sam said. “Spider Gates Cemetery.”
Dean looked at him blankly. “The Eighth Gateway
what now?” Dean shook his head dismissively. “Come
on, Sammy, everyone knows there’s only seven…”
nodded enthusiastically. “So the stories go,”
he agreed, “the Seventh Gateway being –”
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.”
smiled wistfully. “Were you?” he asked.
glanced over at him. “Was I what?”
the hell out?”
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
looked away. “Yeah,” he said quietly, wishing
he remembered times like those. “I guess.”
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?”
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
being at a Celine Dion concert,” Dean offered.
cracked a reluctant smile. “But a helluva lot
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?”
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.”
you think demons are coming out of this so-called Hellgate
and possessing the locals?” Dean frowned. “Seems
like a stretch to me.”
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
shook his head and clamped his jaw shut tightly, unwilling
to rise to the bait for a second time.
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
eyes suddenly narrowed as he squinted off into the distance.
turned and looked at him, gesturing urgently out the
window. “Pull over.”
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…?”
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.
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.
keep smiling,” Sam told him, himself exiting the
Impala. “It’s therapeutic.”
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
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.”
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!” 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!”
raised an eyebrow. “Uh-oh,” he muttered.
“So that’s ‘Nutjob’ with a capital
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.
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…!”
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…?”
was when he caught sight of the River Quabaug, blood
red and liberally littered with the floating corpses
of rotting fish.
he said shortly.
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
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
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!”
a trick,” Dean muttered, eyes never straying from
the hideous scene laid out at his feet. “Gotta
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…”
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!”
Dean echoed. “Seriously?”
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.”
heavy clay deposits or something?” Dean looked
up at Sam hopefully.
he agreed. “Or it could just be some really elaborate
prank. Someone coloring the water…”
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!”
not a prank.”
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.
it’s not dye, either,” the young man continued,
gazing at them levelly. “That’s real human
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,
Sam was this tongue-tied, Dean figured his little brother
must be pretty damn freaked. And he wasn’t far
ye sinners!” The preacher chose that moment to
exclaim loudly. “Repent or be cast into the pit
of Hellfire for all eternity…!”
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, “–
raised an eyebrow. “We can see that,” he
agreed. “What’s his story anyway?”
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?”
grimaced. “Must have been a blast at pep rallies.”
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.
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.”
nodded at Sam before shaking his hand in turn. “You
guys reporters or something?” he asked a tad suspiciously.
brothers glanced at one another. “Or something,”
Dean agreed with a sly grin.
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.
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…”
yeah, actually,” Dean put in. The look on the
engineer’s face prompted him to add, “It
sighed. “This is what it looks like after
we dredged out the dead bodies.”
swung back in Malik’s direction, broken from his
contemplation of the river. “Bodies?”
Malik confirmed. “Fish. Birds.” He paused.
“Not to mention the townspeople who’ve thrown
themselves in here these past couple of weeks.”
were human remains in the river?” Dean
clarified, his frown deepening by the second.
yeah,” Malik confirmed. “Just floated up
to the top. Same time the whole river-turning-to-human-blood
How is that even possible?” Sam asked.
Apocalypse Now y’mean?” Malik clarified.
chuckled despite the dire circumstances, liking this
guy’s sense of humor. Twisted, like his own. “Yeah,”
he said. “Besides that.”
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.
happened a week ago?” Sam asked, seizing on the
engineer’s words astutely.
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?”
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,
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.”
Jersey?” Dean shifted uncomfortably, his and Sam’s
most recent forays into that state tending to end badly.
uncomfortable laugh returned, but he was grinning wide,
as if trying to convince the newcomers this was all
really one big joke to him.
maybe he was trying to convince himself, Dean observed.
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?”
think they did something to the river?” Sam asked.
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, “–
the redevelopment broke ground eight days ago?”
day before this happened.”
are they building?” Dean put in suddenly, eyes
drifting once again to the Quabaug.
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
in English, means…?”
casino,” Malik translated. “Couple of lap-dancing
clubs. Themed stripjoint.”
Sam cut his brother off before he could show too much
Dean asked innocently.
and Indian squaws,” Malik supplied. “Doctors
and nurses. Goths and vampires. You get my drift?”
Winchesters exchanged another uncertain glance.
cleared his throat awkwardly. “Vampires?”
y’know – fake teeth, pale skin. Leather.”
more Blade than Buffy?” Dean
who knows, man? Bunch of freaky weirdos if you ask me.”
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
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 –”
could they be dumping that would turn an entire river
into human blood?”
was the sixty-four thousand dollar question, and Sam
certainly didn’t have an answer.
did Malik, who shook his head, sighing heavily. “Beats
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
shuddered involuntarily. “Sam –” he
know,” Sam replied, not looking at his brother.
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.
again,” Malik sighed.
living soul will be cast into the Pit!”
pronounceth the Almighty…”
* * *
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.”
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.”
shook his head. “Stanford my ass,” he muttered.
“This is the point where you’re supposed
to dazzle me with your brilliant insight, Professor.”
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.”
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?”
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.
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 –
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.”
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.
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.
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?”
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.
she demanded, more out of habit than anything else,
not even looking back up at Sam.
Sam supplied a lot more smoothly than Dean had earlier.
“We’re from the University doing a paper
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
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.
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.”
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.
watch the threads, man!” Dean protested, as Sam
shoved him toward Doctor Benjamin’s office.
if you watch your mouth,” Sam returned through
gritted teeth. “Or do you want to be
sacrificed to another scarecrow god?”
considered that for all of a nanosecond. “Let’s
go see this crusty old doctor shall we?”
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.
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.
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.
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?”
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.”
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.
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.
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
of the patients –” Sam jerked a thumb over
his shoulder hesitantly.
the young doctor said. “Probably Mr. Wang. He
gets a little over-excited when he sees outsiders.”
was speaking German,” Sam pointed out. “And
the nurse called him ‘Johann.’”
the doctor agreed on a sigh, before turning a disarming
smile up at him. “You must be Mr. Reeve?”
Sam shook the petite doctor’s outstretched hand
before indicating his brother with a jerk of his head.
“My brother Dean.”
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.
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.”
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.
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?”
narrowly avoided a yelp as Sam purposely kicked his
foot, a strangled “Dude!” escaping his lips
smiled sunnily at the doctor. “Well, Doctor,”
the young woman interrupted. “‘Doctor Benjamin’
always makes me think my dad’s standing behind
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.”
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.”
sat forward slightly in his chair. “How so?”
he asked, puppy dog eyes in full-on empathy mode.
barely disguised a disgusted eye roll.
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 –”
Dean supplied with a smile that made it clear to the
doctor he was just kidding.
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.”
Dean whistled. “That’s kinda –”
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
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…”
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.”
comforting,” Dean commented.
* * *
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
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?”
frowned slightly as the woman responded to the name,
continuing to wring her hands.
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.”
year was that, Michael?” Rosa asked.
Joanne replied. “Those poor kids. Youngest was
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.
cop looked up at her, blinking. “Fine,”
he said quietly. “A little better.”
keep seeing her,” the cop muttered.
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!”
weren’t a witch, Agnes.”
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…”
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
regarded Aaron’s broad shoulders, wracked with
sobs. “And the sores?”
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
Dean said slowly. “All of these patients –”
he gestured around the room. “They all have stories
to tell like this?”
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.”
* * *
Rest Stop Inn
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?”
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 –”
dunno, I didn’t see no 666 tattooed on Vic Mackey’s
head back there.”
worshippers, Dean,” Sam explained. “In the
Bible they were the ones who were afflicted with sores
made a face. “And that’s when the seas turned
to blood, right?” he hazarded. “Then the
nodded. “Then great heat before total darkness.
Like the man said: Apocalypse Now.”
I got a really bad feeling about this one,” Dean
muttered, slumping down on the bed next to Sam.
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.”
those people back in the psych ward?” Dean countered.
“Who the hell was pushing their buttons?
I mean – the Salem Witch Trials? Seriously?”
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.”
flopped back on the bed. “Dude, when did our lives
ever make sense in the morning?”
* * *
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.
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.
at least he wouldn’t be wanting any hot water.
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.
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.
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.
yet, he couldn’t be sleeping because someone was
talking to him.
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.
have to leave.”
was a woman’s voice, knife-edged and icy cold,
insistent and persuasive.
I don’t,” Sam heard himself say, although
he knew his lips weren’t moving. “I was
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?”
take advantage of it as much as that brother of yours,
I’ll bet. He’s cute and all, but me, I like
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?”
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.”
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.”
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.”
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
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.”
call that respectful?”
not really. I guess I’ve been spending too much
time with my brother. He’s not really into social
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.
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
regret this –”
I don’t think I will.”
take something more valuable –”
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.”
don’t want to defy me –”
actually you know what? I really think I do. Now get
lost will ya? I’m trying to sleep.”
* * *
woke with a start, sitting bolt upright and wondering
what the hell he’d just been dreaming about.
had been dreaming, right?
voice in his head, not wanting to share… That
had been some vivid dream.
take something more valuable…
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.
take something more valuable…
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…”
blinked as the light snapped on, squinting at the lurid
green digital clock on the nightstand showing 4.24am.
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.
blinked a few more times, sat up a little straighter.
take something more valuable…
bed was empty.
the episode here