Thursday, October 28, 1993
At fourteen, Dean Winchester was long-limbed and angular. Not as awkward as other boys his age—his father’s relentless training had ensured that he could move stealthily in any environment and hold his own in most hand-to-hand conflicts—but his recent growth spurt had left him uncomfortably unsure of his own elbows and knees. His new-found height left him towering over his little brother, a position that both amused and bothered him for reasons he didn’t want to explore.
He sighed and stalked out of the cabin, being careful not to slam the door behind him—not that anyone would have heard him. He sometimes felt he was invisible, like in the fairy tales he used to read to Sammy—the invisible hands that cooked dinner and did the laundry. But he was grown up now, knew that invisible hands were more likely to hurt than help. And besides, those stories never mentioned scrubbing toilets or trying to get bloodstains out of jeans.
They’d been stuck in this miserable hellhole for two weeks now, and he was more than ready to move on. Halloween was just a few days away, with jack-o-lanterns and fake cobwebs sprouting on porches all over town, and occasional blasts of frigid air were already shooting south out of Canada, warning of what was to come.
He wanted to be gone, someplace warm, some place where he and Sammy could stay outside and out of dad’s way for a week or two, at least until the first week of November was past. Until it was safe to talk again.
His mother had died on November 2, and even ten years later dad still got a little weird as the date approached. He usually spent the week leading up to it growing increasingly more short-tempered; spent The Day itself in an alcoholic haze, and the next few days nursing a hangover so demonic that his sons moved only on tiptoes and barely spoke at all.
Dean stood in front of the boarded-up cabin for a minute, unsure of what to do. Sammy was inside, engrossed in some lame school history project, and dad was god-knows-where, trying to piece together some information about the string of disappearances that had brought them here. So he was stuck out in the middle of nowhere, with nowhere to go and no way to get there.
He could feel the itch inside him…the little niggle of fear he got every time he saw the Impala drive away, leaving him behind. The fear that this time, maybe….he pushed the thought away. Dad would come back. Dad *always* came back. Besides, Dean had his orders, and he’d learned the price of disobedience.
Too high. Too friggin’ high.
There’d been football practice that afternoon, he remembered, for the game tomorrow night. He’d watched the jocks surrounded by the prettiest girls in the school, and he *knew* he could have made the team if he’d only had the time. Or had been here when they held tryouts. Or would be here for more than one game. For one brief moment he felt a flash of resentment, though he didn’t know if it was towards his dad, or his brother, or maybe just his fucked-up life; or maybe he didn’t want to know. He’d had ten years of practice ignoring his feelings, and so he brushed them aside without further thought.
He’d never fit in anywhere. His hair had darkened somewhat, and his freckles had—thank god—faded a little, so at least he didn’t look like he had some kind of freaking disease; and after he broke Marty Venetucci’s nose last month no one called him “pretty boy” any more, even though he was in a whole different school this month; but his short, almost-military style haircut and wary stance made him stand out in the crowd of gangly, shaggy-haired teens who slouched casually across the campus, and his large green eyes studied the world with an expression that not even the most casual observer would ever describe as innocent.
But hell, he didn’t *want* to fit in. He didn’t have to. He had his dad and Sammy, and that’s all he needed. It was Sammy who always wanted to be like everyone else. Sammy, who seemed to make friends wherever he went, who had every chick over the age of 10 wanting to mother him. Sammy, who needed protecting. And it was his job.
He had a job. More, he had a *calling*. Who the hell cared what those brain-dead jerks thought of him? Those assholes who’d shit their pants if they ever came face-to-face with any of the nightmares he confronted daily. Well, almost daily.
But it was hard, all these nights with Dad away and Sammy with his nose in a book; and here he was, all alone with nothing to do…well, he could do his homework, he amended, but what was the point? Once Dad found what they were looking for, once he figured out how to kill it, they’d be moving on. Another school, another set of jocks, another batch of homework he wouldn’t have to finish before they moved *again*.
He kicked a rock viciously, watching as it sailed through the dusk and plunked against the battered garbage can across the road. Touchdown! he thought grimly.
He wandered aimlessly down the gravel path that led to the lake. The sky was darkening, matching his mood, and he watched as the shadows lengthened and strengthened and the night closed in. Stars started to appear, a few flickering flashes, and he blinked at them, wondering without thought, just…wondering. And felt like a fool, like some kind of stupid chick. He thought of the artfully-styled hair and faces of the cheerleaders and wondered what it would be like to have them…one of them…look at him the way he saw them looking at other boys. The way Randi Himmelreich looked at Jason Peters. The way that cute brunette in his English class looked at the jerk in the last row.
He kicked another rock angrily, grimaced as it refused to be dislodged and bent his toe instead, and, muttering curses under his breath, he strode along the lakeshore, down the small twisty footpath that meandered through the woods, away from the lights of the cabin.
The night was filled with sound, and he classified them with one part of his brain while he walked on. Rustlings…mice, maybe, or rats. He shivered involuntarily—he hated rats. Soft flutter of wings above: an owl, hunting his dinner; and he grinned. Maybe he wouldn’t have to worry about those rats after all. There were strange calls across the lake—some kind of birds, sounding almost like distant laughter. He’d heard them before, at Pastor Jim’s house, and knew they were harmless. Sammy probably knew what they were, he thought absently. He’d never bothered to ask, didn’t need to identify beyond the lack of threat.
The trail led back to the water’s edge, to an enormous granite boulder perched on the shore, one half leaning over the water, the other firmly planted on the ground. He studied it with a hunter’s eye: good vantage point, good place to make a stand. High enough to get away from most four-legged predators, with no place for claws to grip, and the lake at his back.
An owl hooted overhead and he started, then chuckled, embarrassed, glad that there was no one around to see him, see how jumpy he was.
He climbed the rock, glad for his new height for once; found there were hand- and footholds in easy reach. He stood at the top, looking out over the dark lake, the vast black forest surrounding it, and felt both calm and strangely empty. He slid down, finding a natural concavity in the rock, as comfortable as a carved chair, and he rested there, gangly knees drawn up to his chin.
He caught a flicker of motion in the corner of his eye and turned swiftly, seeing…nothing. The impenetrable blackness of the night forest. But he stared into the darkness, away from the starry night, waiting for his night vision to clear, to make sense of the shadows.
Nothing…nothing…and there it was again! He squinted, training and instinct bringing him to alertness. Something moving. Something…pale. Something nearly as tall as him, moving in and among the trees.
He slipped off the rock silently on the far side, away from whatever it was he’d seen, not wanting to give away his intentions, especially since he had the feeling that whatever it was had already seen him. He stretched unconvincingly, started to saunter in the direction of the cabin, then ducked off the trail and into the woods, picturing in his head where he’d seen it, cursing himself for his stupidity, his terrible, stupid curiosity, for chasing after the unknown—in the dark, in the middle of a forest, and unarmed.
He walked with all the stealth he’d been taught, all the years of practice coming to the fore; and he held his breath as he padded silently through the thick mulch on the forest floor. Nothing. And nothing.
He was coming close to the rock, to where he’d seen…whatever…and he stopped to listen, to make sure the bird and insect noises hadn’t stopped, hadn’t been scared into silence by something nearby. And caught another quick flash: pale hair, long and straight, and a tall, slim figure.
His breath caught. “Wait…” he started to call, bit back the sound before it could make it past his throat. There was no reason for anyone to be out here, in the woods, alone, after dark. Well, he shrugged, except for him, and he didn’t count. But there were no other houses near here, just a few summer cabins on the far side of the lake, long since closed for the winter. He shook his head at his folly and moved on, trailing after the ghostly shape.
*Spirit* was his first coherent thought, watching as the faint figure appeared and disappeared in the darkness. It paused underneath a massive oak, turned back as if checking his progress, and he could *almost* see her…a girl in a white dress, with long blond hair streaming in the wind. “Wait!” he did call this time; and this time she stopped, glanced back as if frightened, and then disappeared.
*Get dad* was Dean’s next thought; then, *no, not now.* Because his dad was not hunting, and even though he wouldn’t admit it, even to himself, Dean knew his dad couldn’t do it. Not for another week or so, when he would need to hunt, just to clear away the final cobwebs of ancient grief.
He stood there for a long time, straining his ears for any sound, but heard only the rustling of the leaves as the wind started to rise, the chittering of small furry creatures and the haunting cries of unknown birds across the lake.
Disclaimer: All publicly recognizable characters, settings, etc. are the property of their respective owners. The original characters and plot are the property of the author. The author is in no way associated with the owners, creators, or producers of any media franchise. No copyright infringement is intended.