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The Sin Eater
, The Winchesters should have kept driving
Member No.: 29,179
Joined: 25-December 07
''How far 'til Bradford?" Dean asked. They'd been on the road for days, and the charm was wearing thin.
Sam unfolded his map of Pennsylvania once again, sighing with his own road-weariness. "Bout three hours. There's a little fly-speck of a town coming up. Spencerville. I wouldn't mind stopping, I could use a coffee."
Dean nodded. Yeah--a shot of caffeine would be a good idea about now. They were scheduled to meet up with Bobby in Bradford, at his request. Something to do with demons, some signs. Dean was loathe to address anything hell-related at the moment, it was all still pretty fresh. He'd only just regained his brother, and he wasn't in any state of mind, after everything, to deal with the ugly reality that he'd brought down on his own head. But Bobby Singer could ask him to send his right arm gift-wrapped, and he'd do it without question. Sam felt likewise.
They were driving through some breathtaking country. The Adirondack hills were beautiful in any season, but particularly so now, in the waning summer. Here and there were hints of the scarlet that the maples would explode into later, surrounded by deep, verdent green. It was lovely country to retire in, if you had money. Not so romantic for those who were born here. Generations lived and died in poverty in the hills. There was forestry, but little else to sustain anything beyond subsistence. And mills were closing left and right, throwing more and more of the current generation into dire straits. Farming opportunities were nil--the land was too hilly and rocky. There were little plots, carved out in the 1800's, between hills and ravines, just enough to grow a few things for the family's use. The mines that made hiking treacherous were all played out. The only thing that had sustained the people here now was oil. Small, backyard oil rigs dotted the view, some moving slowly up and down, pulling the precious commodity from the depths, but most sat rusting and silent, shut down by the Environmental Protection Agency.
A shabby little restaurant came into view. No cars graced its weedy parking lot, and Dean slowed as they drove past.
"Looks closed. crap---I gotta take a leak."
He pulled over and backed up, stopping in front of the abandoned building. He ducked behind it to relieve himself, and as he did, a pickup truck slowed and stopped on the road. An unfriendly looking man called out to Sam, who sat waiting.
"That place is closed. What do you want there?"
Sam pasted on his most innocuous smile. "Just looking for a coffee. Any place around here to grab one?"
The man sized him up, his frosty demeanor remaining unchanged. "Post office, up ahead a mile." With that curt statement, he pulled away and left. Sam whistled, as Dean re entered the car. "What'd he want?"
"To make sure we weren't strangers robbing the place. I asked him where we could grab something to drink, he said the post office coming up. Friendly bastard." he snorted.
"What, he didn't even melt a little at your dewy puppy eyes..?"
"Shut up, you freak. The place is a mile up the road. Maybe somebody there knows where there's a motel somewhere near. I don't know about you but I need to be horizontal for a while."
Dean grunted his agreement. After a few minutes, the building in question came into view. It was an old frame general store, with the post office being its main function these days. It seemed it was still the social hub of the community, such as it was. There were a number of pick-ups out front, several of which carried plywood crates with baying hounds as their cargo. Sam chose to stay behind. "Coffee, and see if they have anything like those pepperettes or something."
Dean nodded and headed inside.
The place was as he expected. The post office took most of the counter, along with an ancient cash register and a collection of lottery tickets. The walls were lined with hunting and fishing needs, some stale looking loaves of bread, and chips. The coffee maker was at one wall, a throng of scruffy, bearded men standing around it. He had to excuse himself to get at it, and they seemed reluctant to let him pass. At least he thought so. Their cold appraisal of him made him nervous, he didn't know why. But he smiled warmly and made a lame comment about the weather as he poured out two coffees. No one anwered, they just turned away in disinterest.
The coffee was so black and cooked smelling that he added extra sugar and cream, stacked the cups, and carried them along as he went in search of some snacks. The group of men were grimly discussing events of the previous days, Dean couldn't help but overhear.
"..I'm telling you, Frank--that place ain't right. Bert knew how to use that tractor, he woulda never took it near that slope. And lookit Dale--half his hand gone. Him too---been using a chainsaw since he was a kid, for christs sake, He don't make that kinda mistake."
The one called Frank grunted. "Them chains just broke off that load of logs, too. You see those links? Nuthin shoulda snapped them, they were so thick. Baker was nearly flattened when they came off that trailer. He was damned lucky."
"What's Alice gonna do now...hire somebody to finish clearing that lot? With Bert gone, she can't afford to quit that contract. That rich bastard from New York will probably kill the sale, and then she'll have piss--all."
There was general agreement to that. One of the men piped up- "Well, I sure as hell ain't gonna do it. I could use the money as much as anybody, but not if it's gonna cost me so dear. She can hire somebody that don't know the history..."
Dean's curiosity overtook his caution. It sounded to him that something odd was going on, something right up their alley. He decided to learn more. He unloaded his armload onto the counter and paid for it. At least the woman behind the counter was friendly enough. He asked her about a motel, and she laughed.
"Nothing like that, 'til Bradford. You can go check with May Adams, she keeps a couple of rooms for boarders and such. She might have room for you. Just head left after the blue house down the road---you'll see her sign. They're not fancy, but they're clean. How long you planning to stay?"
Dean smiled and thanked her. "Just one night. We've been driving for a while, supposed to meet a buddy of ours in Bradford. But since that's still a few hours away, we figured maybe we'd put up for the night."
"Well that sounds wise. Best not to drive at dusk on these roads, the deer are all over them at this time of year. Take care, now."
He nodded and turned to the men. "Hey, listen, I couldn't help but hear you talking. Something strange going on?"
They stared at him. "What's it to you?"
Dean was taken aback by their raw hostility. "Nothing. Just overheard, and it's my business to check things out." He reached into his coat and withdrew his wallet, and showed his federal badge. It was a mistake.
"Fed, huh?" the one named Frank said. "Well, you got no business round here, Mr. Federal Agent. Ain't nothing going on 'cept an accident, and folks mourning a good man. Nuthin here to tax, nuthin to legislate, nuthin to investigate, you got that?! This ain't no government business."
Dean was very aware that he was outnumbered. Even the lady that had been so forthcoming moments ago was now staring at him coldly. He wisely backed off.
"Relax, Buddy---I'm not here to interfere with you people. Sorry to have bothered you all." He smiled benignly, nodded to them, and backed out of the store. He returned to the car, tossing the sack to Sam and handing him the cups.
"Whoa...I was about as welcome in there as a freaking dentist. You shoulda seen that group of toothless mouth breathers, Sam; the second I identified myself as a Fed, they went all Deliverance.
Sam glanced back. "Well, they're coming out, and they don't look like a welcoming committee. Better go."
Dean put it in gear and drove away, leaving the grim group of men standing, staring at them with arms crossed.
"Why'd you pull a badge anyway?" Sam wondered.
"They were all going on about some incident yesterday. Some local guy got squashed---rolled his backhoe. Might've just been an accident, except they were saying that it was the fourth major thing to happen on that land in the past week. The dead guy just sold the plot, and was clearing it for the new owner to build, and they've had nothing but bad luck trying to work it. Since we're a few days ahead of Bobby, I thought it was worth looking into, what do you think..?"
"I don't know---could be a waste of time...what other things happened?"
"Equipment failures....truck broke an axle for no reason,...chains broke on a trailer of house logs and nearly pancaked some jerk. Oh, and some poor SOB cut off half his hand with a chainsaw. That's a little weird, I'd say. Can't chalk all that up to Murphy's Law."
"Ouch!" Sam snorted. "Guess he won't be playing that banjo anymore. So how'd you piss them off so fast in there, anyway?"
"I didn't do anything! Geez, not like I'm always looking for a fight--"
"No, but you do have a certain manner."
Dean frowned, wounded. "Yeah, well, all I did was flash my badge and ask about it. They all clammed up, and got pretty hostile as soon as Fed came up. Thought I was gonna get lynched."
Sam stretched and yawned, trying to get comfortable after so many hours in the car. "Well, we're in hill country now, Dean. Old area, historically resistant to government interference. Don't take it personally--you're just a revenuer to them. Just watch your back when you're around any of them, might get a load of buckshot in your ass."
Dean was still peeved when they located May Adam's place. Sam told him he would speak to her, worrying that Dean would alienate another local with the mood he was in. He waited in the car. Within a few minutes, Sam stepped out and waved to him to bring their gear. The room they'd gotten was at the back of the farmhouse, thankfully with it's own access and bathroom. Dean was relieved, the last thing he wanted was to have to go through some flowery, knick-knack-laden parlour with some old hag sitting crocheting or something, just to get to a can.
"So what's this gonna cost?" he asked sourly.
"Forty-five per night. Can't beat that, Dean."
Dean had to agree, it was particularly reasonable. They settled in to the room, hauling in the essentials and locking up the rest. "So what's May like?" Dean asked hopefully.
Sam laughed. "Depends on what your fetishes are, Dean. You like wrinkles? Facial hair? or maybe nice big gummy smiles..."
Dean shuddered visibly. "Ugh. It's been a while, but I'm not that desperate." He rolled over and closed his eyes for a moment, groaning. "Christ--I can still see broken yellow lines. Anywhere around here that I can pick up something stronger than bad rot-gut coffee?"
"Good question. We didn't pass any stores or anything, but the people around here must be able to buy stuff closer than Bradford. Wasn't there anything in the post office?"
Dean wracked his brain. "I saw a bunch of crap, but I didn't see any bottles. But from the looks of the clientelle, they weren't tea-totallers. I dunno---maybe they brew their own around here."
"Could be, Dean." Sam reached into his own bag, retrieving something, which he proudly handed over. "By the way, Merry Christmas."
Dean was delighted at the bottle of Jack Daniels. "Hey! Way to go! What made you get this??"
Sam looked at him a little shyly. "Nothing. I picked it up cuz it was on sale.."
"Liar!" Dean grinned. He was beyond pleased that Sam had thought of him. He knew his younger brother would rather drink bleach than something with the bite and personality of this particular poison. He put it aside, still smiling like a cheshire cat.
Member No.: 29,179
Joined: 25-December 07
Yay--still someone out there reading lol
May Adams came around, knocking on their door, and entering before they had a chance to reply. She was exactly as Sam had described, a woman who had a lifetime of toil etched on her face. Her age was a mystery.
"Hello boys. Just thought I would advise you of my rules. No guests, no dogs, nuthin other than tobacco. And keep it quiet, thank you. Now, if you're hungry---there's snacks and such at the post office, and you got a hot plate there, but there ain't no restaurants or nuthin til Bradford. Now, I will have a nice stew done by evening, you can have a couple of bowls for $5 apiece. Just let me know." She smiled briefly, at least that was the intent--they couldn't be sure, as it came across more like gurning. She left before they had a chance to respond.
When she was safely out of earshot, they couldn't help but snicker. Dean was game, he was hungry now, and stew, no matter what the hell was in it, sounded pretty damned good. Sam was a little concerned that there'd be porcupine quills in it.
"Aw don't be such a princess, Sammy. Stew's great, no matter what. It's like anything---just don't over-think it and you'll enjoy it."
Sam made a face. His philosophies were polar opposites to those of his brother. He vowed to make lunch himself at least. He settled on his own bed, stretching out. "So...now what? Snooze?"
Dean shook his head. "Nah, I'm too wired. You can snooze if you want. I might take a drive over to that lot. Maybe I can see if there's anything worth staying around for."
Sam raised up onto an elbow. "Do you know where it even is?"
"Thought I heard something about the highway---they said something about Molly's---wasn't that the name of that restaurant that was closed up?"
Sam couldn't remember. "I dunno. Why don't you just relax, Dean? We'll meet up with Bobby in a couple of days, there's hardly any time to chase anything right now anyway."
Dean slumped back onto his bed. "Yeah, maybe. Bobby seemed pretty keyed up. Don't wanna get in the way of whatever he was looking into." He sighed and fiddled with the band at his wrist. The reality was, he'd give anything to avoid addressing whatever Bobby was researching. Hell, all he'd gotten was one damned year---couldn't he just revel in his little victory for a while..? He lay, wide-eyed and anxious, while Sam's breathing evened out into soft snores. It had been a long drive.
He almost drifted off, when May returned. She entered with her usual abruptness, one knock and no other warning. He made a mental note to push a dresser in front of the door in future.
"I almost forgot. Got a wake to go to tonight. If you want that stew, you'll have to serve yourself, it's on low on the stove. Just go on round to the front if you like, but mind Angus, he's nervous about strangers. I'll be at Munro's 'til nine or so. Poor man. Don't know how Alice will make do now."
She turned to go again, but Dean stopped her.
"Ma'am, we heard about the accident. We're sorry about your friend, --sounds like he met up with some bad luck." It was a calculated attempt, he figured she was either going to be closed-mouthed about it, or a gossip. Luckily, it was the latter.
"Oh, my, yes! Poor man. You know, we all told him he was playing with fire with that piece of land, after everything. Sure, he got it for a song, back-taxes, you know---but you couldn't pay me enough to set foot up there. Some things are just better left alone."
Dean would have loved some further clarification, but she swept out again. He exchanged a look with Sam. "So? Enough to go explore a little..?"
Sam shrugged. "I told you Dean, Go right ahead, I'm staying here and crashing for a while. I'll go with you later if you want, but not right now."
Dean huffed with annoyed impatience. "God you're a pansy. I can't sit still after that last couple of coffees. Stay here then, get your beauty sleep. I'm gonna go for a drive."
Sam raised his head. "Stay in touch, at least. And don't stay away too long, come back for three and I'll have some lunch ready."
Dean discarded his jacket, too warm for anything other than his long sleeved tee. "Yes, dear. Bye, honey." he grinned as he left.
"And don't piss any more people off!" Sam yelled after him.
It was acknowledged with a middle finger salute.
Sam lay awake for a while. He worried about his brother, about his state of mind. Sam was so conflicted---the sacrifice Dean had made, it was too dear, and one that Sam wasn't sure, deep down, that he would have made in the same situation. That admission filled him with a guilt that cut so sharply that he turned his mind away from it. And he knew exactly how his brother's mind worked. Anytime he was worried or bothered, he sought out some distraction, often with less than ideal results. Some female companionship would have been a good thing for him, but so far, the only woman they'd met was May Adams. But this little foray seemed safe enough, at least it kept him occupied and out from under the unfriendly scrutiny of the locals.
He was looking forward to talking with Bobby, alone. Genius came in odd packages sometimes, and Bobby always had a way of putting things in perspective, of slowing it all down and clarifying it. Sam needed that, because right now he was so damned filled with guilt and anger and stomach clenching turmoil, and the last person he could open up to was Dean. Everytime he looked at his older brother, he wanted to simultaneously hug him, and punch the daylights out of him.
He sighed for the hundredth time and finally gave in to exhaustion.
Dean cursed, annoyed that he would have to leave the Impala behind and walk in. The road was just too rough, only recently forged through the forest. He parked it and got out, surveying the place. Lots of trees, maples, birch. The forested mountain rose sharply ahead, but the ground here was rolling, ---here and there, were flatter spots, edged by small ravines. It was beautiful country---perfect for some massive log house. He opened the trunk, retrieving the EMF unit and a salt gun. If something weird was going on, he didn't want to be caught unprepared. Same reason stood for the handgun at his waist, --- living or otherwise, they were all pretty damned odd and unfriendly around here.
He trudged along the rock-strewn road. Half way, he came across the disheveled pile of logs that had broken loose from their transport. They were skillfully coped and dovetailed, ready to be snapped together like Lego. He whistled in admiration, the logs were huge, some with two foot diameters. Definitely not local trees. One of the yokels had said they were trucked all the way in from the west coast. The new owner obviously had some money. He leaned and picked up a section of broken chain. Heavy, solid steel links, they were of a size that he would have thought impossible to break, under any circumstance. He dropped the piece and continued on.
The leaves were only just starting to show hints of turning, everything was still predominently green. The air was warm, and smelled spicy and fresh--woodsy. The sun made bright, dappled patterns where it shone through the trees, if it weren't for the whining halo of midges following him, he might have actually enjoyed the hike. As he neared the end of the road, the land opened up. There was a clearing here, but it wasn't recent. He stood and scanned, looking for the backhoe, but it wasn't visible. He could see that this must have been some old homestead. The grass was tall, and golden with late season maturity. There were lines of stone peeking out of it, --walls, or old foundations. Here and there, he could see collapsed piles of weathered grey wood that used to be outbuildings. There was no evidence of a house standing, just a rectangle of stacked stone. It was fairly flat and level--there really wasn't any reason for trucks to be snapping axles on this terrain. The EMF remained silent. He walked through the grass, noting the remains of some old, small orchard. There were a few trees left, gnarled and twisted now with age. They hadn't been properly pruned for decades, thick sucker branch growth obscured their original form. But they still had healthy crowns of leaves, starting to speckle with brown. Yellow apples, stunted and pock-marked, hung from the branches. He reached out and pulled one off, and bit off a chunk. Despite its homely, un-tended appearance, it was perfectly ripe and sweet. He ate the good parts, avoiding the spots that looked occupied, and tossed the core away.
Now he could see where the clearing work was being done. A swath of level, fresh earth was carved beyond the apple trees, it extended to the edge, where a ravine defined the clearing. He followed it, and looked down the shadowy slope. The rusted yellow backhoe was there, lying on its side at the end of a scraped scar running half way down the ravine's side. It was pure luck that it had stopped where it was, a few slender trunks were all that held it. Dean wondered what the hell the guy was thinking, driving that machine down a slope like this. It was obviously too steep for that kind of equipment. He slid down, and grabbed the edge of the backhoe bucket to keep from skidding into the creek at the bottom. It shifted and moved a few inches at his touch, he let go in a hurry, in case the wreck decided to acquiesce to gravity and head all the way down. The machine was dented and scraped, and smeared all over with soil, it had obviously rolled a few times. The stink of leaking diesel fuel surrounded it. He circled it, examining it for damage. It was an old John Deere, pretty much at the end of its useful lifespan. Well, now, for sure. He could see shovel marks, where they'd dug the poor bastard out from under it. There was still blood spatter crusted on the yellow paint. --Oh yeah...closed casket--- Dean thought grimly. Nobody could have survived that. He paused at the place, and knelt, examining a curiously organized little pile of the yellow apples from above. ...maybe some rodent's stash-- He made his way back around to the front. The big earth trough was dented, there was a piece of grey stone stuck in the toothed edge. Dean pried it out, stepping back nervously as the machine ground a further few inches down the slope. He peered at it closely. It was marble, and showed a mason's tool marks. It was too smooth for a foundation stone. He turned it over, and saw the distinct shape of incised carving. Half of an 'S'. Yep---this was definitely part of a headstone.
Dean had his aha moment, it was a little clearer now just what could be behind the rash of bad luck. Seemed somebody didn't want to be disturbed.
Member No.: 29,179
Joined: 25-December 07
Hey--back again but on the road--another update will follow soon---ml
Dean scrambled up the slope, back onto the sunny clearing. He ducked the scratchy apple branches reaching out from the trees where the backhoe had gone over, looking for the rest of the stone. He found it, it stood at the base of one of the trunks, at the clearing's edge. He was amazed that it still stood straight after being struck---he would've bet on the backhoe winning that battle. It was a small stone--spare and simple, one that showed more duty than love in its erection. He crouched to read the name. He read it over twice. It wasn't a typical name--wasn't a name at all, as far as he could tell. He placed the fragment against the place where it had been knocked off.
SIN EATER. That was all it said...sin eater, carved in unadorned block letters.. Dean tossed the piece at the base of the stone and stood, perplexed. Weird thing to put on a gravestone. He checked again, front and back, and dug away at the stone base, just to make sure he wasn't missing any other wording, but nothing was revealed. It was just those two enigmatic words. It could be a name---maybe Sin was short for something...like Sinead. And people had all sorts of stupid surnames. He decided to call Sam.
"Hey. You awake?"
"I am now.. Find anything?"
"Yeah. It was just off the highway, west of that closed restaurant we saw. Seems like some old homestead. I found the backhoe, looks like it was clearing land when it hit a gravestone. The gravestone won---tractor's upside-down in a gully."
"Huh. Could you read it? Are you picking up any EMF static? Do you really think there's enough to keep us here?"`
Dean swatted with annoyance at the cloud of insects. "Yeah, I'd say so. From what I can see, this should have been fairly easy for them to clear and build. EMF's quiet, but there's not much reason for any of the crap that happened. And get this--the words on the stone are Sin Eater---nothing else."
"Sin Eater? No other name?"
"Nope. Any chance that it could be one?"
"..I don't know. Pretty weird. Want me to check those words while you wait?"
"Yeah, do that. You might as well earn your keep."
"har har. ..Hang on while I type this in." Sam googled the words and instantly, a wealth of information sprang up. "Ok--it's not a name. It's a ritualistic or superstitious practice. It's old, but I don't know if anybody still does it. Looks like it was done in places like Wales, and then spread to the New World, especially poorer areas, where money and education were limited..."
"Well what the hell is it?" Dean demanded impatiently.
"I'm getting to it! Ok, sin-eating was a means for a dead person to be absolved of their wrong doings. A bowl of beer and a loaf of bread would be placed on the deceased's abdomen, and then the sin eater would come. He'd be given some money, and with some ritual words, the sins of the dead guy would be transferred into the food. Then the sin eater would...well, eat them, and the sins along with it. They believed that the responsibilities for the sins were then assumed by the sin-eater.These guys were pariahs, Dean. A necessary evil, in their community's eyes. They were shunned and avoided, and the only time they were wanted was when somebody died."
"Really. Well that's pretty crappy. Why would they do that, then?"
"It says here that it was usually the poorest of society--you know, desperate people who'd been reduced to doing pretty much anything for a buck. That, and sometimes a loving relative that was thrown into the position of eat the sins or let the dead loved one go to hell."
Dean grunted. This hit a little too close to home for his comfort. "Poor bastard. So the guy buried here was some lonely, shunned loser in life. They didn't even have the decency to write his name on his stone, for crap's sake. And then he died, and probably nobody came. Wonder if anybody ate his sins.... At least he got a headstone. Any chance of getting a name some other way?"
"Maybe through local archives. Not likely that anything from this area will be online, but all the birth, death, and property records will be stored somewhere nearby. It'll mean a drive, and some time in local libraries, or some town hall.."
"Well your day's shaping up just right then, isn't it, Professor Sammy? I guess I should head back then. You're gonna need wheels for your research, and I'm starving."
"I can make us some KD. How long until you get back here?"
"I dunno. Maybe a half hour. I'll just do a quick check around here to see if any other names or anything turns up. Not much left here, the old site was pretty much abandoned. I don't know why people didn't keep living here, it has an amazing view--no mystery as to why the rich guy wanted to build his log paradise here. May Adams said that this dead backhoe driver guy, Bert Munro, bought the land for back-taxes. Sounds like nobody else around here would touch it with a ten foot pole. You think it was because of the sin-eater thing?"
Sam didn't know. "Maybe. Superstitions run deep, even if people don't even remember the origins. I'll do what I can online, but like I said--most of this will be leg-work. Get here soon, will you? Otherwise lunch will be gross."
Sam waited a short while, then put the water on to boil. While he waited, he roamed online in search of information about the odd practice of sin-eating, and he tried to find any important anecdotal material for the area. Unfortunately there was little, this particular stretch of land was still fairly rooted in an older way of living, and internet had little meaning here. The best he could do was locate the nearest libraries and town halls, it would be the to start researching. Of course, they could always ask a local person, but somehow he felt that they would be met with more resistance and dead ends that way. They sure seemed protective of their privacy. Unless you could prove that you were a blood relative, you were an outsider, and apparently that meant you were going to stay on the outside.
Dean slipped his phone back into his jeans pocket. So sin-eater was a title rather than a name. He wondered what had brought him to becoming one. And how he died. Judging from his unsympathetic grave marker, it was probably alone. Somebody saw fit to put him here and mark his presence, but neglected to add the personal touch of his real name. He realized that the sin-eater was probably deemed too 'unclean' to be placed in a churchyard. So much for his sacrifice, it sure didn't seem to get him much in life, and not a helluva lot more in death..
He was hungry. He decided he's poke around the foundations quickly, just to see if there was anything there that could shed light on the person buried in this lonely place. The grass was so tall, it obscured much of the ground. He found the well, and what must have been a stable, judging from the old pieces of tack that still sat in moldering piles where they'd fallen from the collapsed walls. There was nothing left of the house, he found plenty of evidence that it had burned long ago. Satisfied that he'd seen anything of potential interest, he snagged another apple and headed toward the other end of the clearing, where the road entered.
It was a whisper, barely audible. Dean whipped around, seeing nothing. He wasn't even sure he'd heard it. Until the second time...
He was sure he heard it right. It was a drawn out whisper, seemed to float down on the wind, like it was breathed out. The hairs rose on the back of his neck. He wished he could see the car, but it's comforting image was out of view. He dropped the apple and stepped up his pace, clutching the salt gun nervously. He heard it again, and was sure now that the air had cooled around him for a moment. Definitely a presence... He stopped, holding the gun ready, and scanned around the sunny meadow. It seemed peaceful, nothing indicated anything unusual. As he stood, waiting, all he heard was the buzz of insects, or the distant song of a bird. The breeze was gentle and pleasantly warm. He was tempted to believe he was imagining it, when the EMF chirped. He glanced down at it, and saw the brief flash of warning lights. It stayed still for a moment, he shook it in case it was malfunctioning. But then it began to scream.
The whisper was loud this time, a sharp hiss---it felt like the speaker was right on top of him. Dean ducked automatically and stepped away. He spun and levelled the gun, but saw nothing.
"Who are you?!" he shouted to the empty air. There was no answer to that demand, only the same maddening word, hissed in his ear. Dean backed away, and stumbled in the long, tangled grass. He leapt up and again pointed the salt gun at the place where'd stood. "Show yourself!"
The spirit was not enticed to do so. Instead it continued to circle the hunter, whispering it's accusation, tormenting him. Dean kept backing away, equally annoyed and afraid. He tripped several more times, cursing. The grass seemed to hide a network of vines, wild grape, virginia creeper. The tendrils twined around everything, choking whatever they grew up against. Where the hell did all these freaking things come from?! He hadn't noticed them before, but here, they twined along the ground---dry, rough serpents, rising in tangled hummocks over rocks and stumps, and snaking through the grass in treacherous loops. He stumbled again, despite his scanning the ground for the obstacles. But he wasn't about to slow down now, he could see the road ahead, and the air had grown so chilled that his breath was condensing in puffs, despite the warm afternoon sun. The whispering seemed to surround him, as if it emanated from some constantly changing position. He wanted to cover his ears, but he kept both hands tight on the shotgun, pointing it frantically each time in the direction from which the sound came, but nothing ever materialized. The damned EMF kept up its screech, as if yelling an I-told-you-so, and warning him to hurry up and get the hell out of there. He fumbled a hand over it, finally shutting it off, it's message was already clear enough..
He felt a rising panic---it wouldn't leave him alone, but it wouldn't present itself either, and he could hardly hit a target that refused to show. He was startled by a touch, he felt it now, a cold wisp, an icy breath caressed his face as that damned word was whispered. No longer heeding the perils of the ground in front of him, he started to run.
He felt something strike him, whipping around to see what it was. More things pelted him, small stones, the stunted apples. He ducked what he could, and kept his head down to protect his eyes. The words hissed loudly all around him, he yelled back in fear and fury at the entity that attacked him now, and fired off several wild shots with no effect. The barrage of apples and rocks continued, forcing him back, away from the road, and he stumbled back toward the meadow's far edge, skidding through the raw, damp clay that had been turned over by the backhoe.
Afterward, he wouldn't be able to say whether he was tripped up by the vines, or if he'd been shoved. But either way, he suddenly found himself stumbling at the gully's edge, desperately trying to avoid falling. He lost his grip on the gun in a vain attempt to keep his balance. But his feet were caught in the damned grass, and the ground of the gully seemed to rush up to meet him. He reached with flailing arms toward something, --anything-- to slow his descent, but his nails scraped off loose bark.
He was struck and whipped by the twisted branches of the old apple tree growing at the edge, he shut his eyes against their sharp edges, and hit the ground rolling. For a second, he saw the crest of the meadow above him, a figure there... then collided face first with the hulking backhoe. It abruptly halted his headlong tumble. There wasn't time to voice the curse that flew through his mind. The violence of the impact knocked him breathless, he fell back limply against the earth, and slid past the machine. If it hadn't been for the scattered hawthorns at the bottom, he'd have landed in the water. Stunned, he lay for a moment against the trees, heaving to catch his breath, blinking hard to clear his vision of streaming blood. But his momentary relief at being spared a cold soaking in the creek was short-lived. Above him, the backhoe groaned and creaked, and began to slide.
He threw himself in desperation to one side as it tipped and crashed down, the effort sparing him from it's previous driver's fate. The machine screeched and ground and rolled, throwing up clods of earth and a shower of leaves. The ruined hydraulics snapped free of the digging arm, it flailed loose briefly, like a broken neck, and the iron-toothed bucket crashed down. Dean had no time to throw up his arms before it landed squarely on him where he lay.
His own coughing woke him. He lay quiet, uncomprehending, for a long time, gradually becoming aware of his surroundings. He pried his eyes open with difficulty, as his eyelashes were glued together with drying blood. His vision was too blurred to see much, but it was still light. The more he gained acuity, the more his hurts made themselves known. He groaned, spitting out the copper taste of more blood, as the numbness that was spread across his face began to wane, replaced by throbbing of increasing insistence. He moved his fingers carefully over his features. He traced the rise of an impressive goose-egg on his forehead, the skin split and bruised. He couldn't tell if he'd busted his nose. He ran his tongue over his teeth, relieved that they, at least, were intact. Instinctively, he tried to haul himself up to sit. He shocked himself to full awareness with his own yell, falling back again.
He shuddered, as a breath-robbing pain shot through his arm and shoulder. He stopped moving and lay his head back down, catching his breath and evaluating. Passing his fingers gingerly over his left shoulder, he groaned again. The outline was all wrong, and his light pressing brought a stabbing pain that drove deep into the joint. It was dislocated, no question. The force of the digger's impact had wrenched it out, but it was a minor inconvenience compared to the rest. The backhoe bucket sat upside-down, like the top of a grinning predator's head, it pinned his left forearm. One of it's great, rusty tines had pierced through, crucifying his arm to the damp earth. He reached his right hand out, fingertips just touching the huge metal thing. He tried to push it, but it was immobile, a solid four hundred pounds of pitted iron. The motion brought a fresh rush of pain , he groaned involuntarily as whirling stars prickled his vision and he was forced to stop before he passed out. He ground out a stream of choice words until the feeling faded.
His arm was already slick with blood His shirt was fast becoming sodden at his armpit, blood had collected there from where it streamed from higher up. He gingerly pushed himself up now, careful not to move his shoulder any more than he had to, and scanned where his arm was caught. What greeted him nearly turned his stomach. The source of the bleeding was obvious, it welled lazily around the iron tine with each heartbeat, flowing down from the puncture in a sluggish stream, where it collected in the absorbant cotton of his sleeve. He groaned in dismay.
He was a sitting duck for whatever had been following him, he knew he had to get free somehow, or god-knows-what else was going to happen. Taking a ragged breath, he tried to flex his fingers, hoping that he could somehow pull his arm out from under the thing. He could hardly feel them, his hand was so numb, but he could feel the ripple of his tendons under his skin, relieved that the weight of the heavy metal thing wasn't fully carried by his arm alone. He thought he felt a little give, and he dug a hollow under his elbow, swearing at the pain as he clawed out handfuls of soil and leaves so that he could push his arm down and free it from the tine. When he thought there was enough room, he gripped his arm at the elbow and pressed, feeling the rusted metal slide a reluctant increment out of his flesh..
He didn't try it twice, he blacked out at the resulting agony. When he came to, a deafening hiss still filled his senses, but after several minutes it faded, leaving only the quiet burbling of the creek below him, and the sound of his own rapid breathing. Shivering in a cold sweat, he felt suddenly and overwhelmingly alone. He was swamped by impotent rage and pain, and he squeezed his eyes shut and choked out a curse. Dean knew, now, that he was in serious trouble.
Member No.: 17,903
Joined: 13-March 07
Hope you all have a happy christmas holiday---mal
Sam checked his watch again, growing annoyed. Be back by three--he'd said to Dean. He'd made the triple-feed of kraft dinner that he'd promised---the stuff had a limited lifespan and it was already congealing into a gluey mass as it cooled. He picked at it, waiting impatiently. The scent of May Adam's roadkill stew was starting to waft over, and he was loathe to admit that it really smelled good. Finally he broke down and called, resigned to the ribbing he'd have to endure about his wifely nagging. When there was no answer, a cold worry began to overtake his irritation.
Dean's brush with despair was brief. He shrugged it off and became practical again. He'd ascertained that his phone was somewhere other than where he needed it to be, which was bloody typical. No doubt it had flown into the leaves somewhere down the slope. He was stuck where he was for now. He knew that he was losing blood, he had to stop that first. He reached down to his boots, trying very hard not to disturb his shoulder. He slowly unlaced both, and using his teeth to hold one end, he tied the cords together into something longer. Resting for a moment, he cleared his thinking, and pulled the sticky knit fabric of his sleeve up, puffing with the effort it took not to yell. Instead, he laughed, struck by the absurdity of his situation. He wound the lace around his arm above his elbow, and knotted it. He knew he couldn't tighten it enough that way, he felt around for a stick, and finding one that was solid, he slipped it under the cord, gritted his teeth and twisted it around and around, until he could feel the tell tale coldness creep down the offending limb. He held his breath and watched, squinting against the mounting pain, until the bleeding slowed to a tiny trickle. Satisfied, he pulled his sleeve back down over the stick to secure it and keep the cord tight. That task done, he leaned over and gave in to nausea, retching until he collapsed with exhaustion.
..god it hurt....
Under different circumstances, he'd keep trying to push his arm down, away from the metal tooth to free himself. Eventually he'd be able to pull away. But with his shoulder out, he couldn't bear the resulting movement on the displaced joint. Everytime he summoned the grit to try it, it sent a curtain of blackness across his senses. Finally he gave up and rested. He drifted off for a time, which was a blessing.
Sam paced as he called and called. --stupid--- he berated himself, how could he have let him go there on his own?? These things never worked out, he should know that by now. He couldn't believe that he'd been so selfish and short-sighted. A nap---just so he could take a bloody nap! Dean was clearly in a mood for trouble, and now it looked like he may have found it.
And here he was, without wheels, stuck in the farmhouse while...
"Screw this!" he growled to himself. He threw on his jacket and left, jogging to the highway. He had no idea how long it would take, but he vowed that he was going to walk, run or hitch-hike his way out to where Dean had said he was going, hostile locals be damned.
"...are you dead..?"
He turned slowly and squinted toward the whispered voice. "Sammy?!"
Sam didn't answer. No one did, the frosty air was still, and silent. Apparently the speaker's question was answered. Dean froze, wide eyed now, and his heartrate leapt in intensity. --aw, not now, jesus!--- He knew the spirit was near, it was unnaturally cold. He struggled to sit, fearful that his current jeopardy had just been eclipsed by something worse. A searing pain shot through him, it dizzied him and he lay back down, fighting the urge to heave again. He lay still for a long time, shutting his eyes and waiting for the agony to wane. He was at the spirit's mercy now, there was nothing he could do about it, and at the moment, he almost didn't care.
Dean roused himself with difficulty. "Why do you care?" he groaned under his breath. He wasn't expecting an answer, but he got one, a whisper, barely audible despite it's being breathed into his ear. He shuddered with the chill, and the unnerving sensation of the close presence.
"...can't save the living."
Dean thought that a talking spirit was better than one that was attacking. All he wanted to do was sleep, the shock and blood loss were taking a toll. But he mastered his fear and continued the unusual conversation.
"Did you save Bert Munro?"
The spirit seemed to back away for a moment---the air was warmed briefly, but after a time, the voice sighed out a response. "...he is saved. I ate his sins."
Dean remembered. The odd little pile of apples. ..the sin-eater. "Did you kill him?"
The spirit didn't answer for a time. When it did, it was almost too quiet to hear. "..Didn't mean to."
The silence stretched out again. "..he was gonna take my stone. Stone's all I got."
Despite his pain, Dean was intrigued, and it took his mind off his predicament a little. "What's your name, anyway?"
"No, your real name."
(pause) "...I am..sin eater."
"Don't you have a Christian name?"
Sin Eater was silent for a long time. Finally it whispered. "...Nathaniel. Nathaniel Willard is my christian name."
--Now we're getting somewhere.--- Dean thought. He swallowed hard, and collected himself. "So Nate, why are you hanging around here, saving our undeserving souls? ...don't you wanna go to heaven?"
Sin eater sighed, a long, drawn-out sound, heavy with pain. "...pearly gates will not open for me. I am reviled."
"Reviled? By who?"
Ah.... "So you stay here..."
"..don't wanna go to hell."
---Amen, buddy.--- Dean shifted a little, feeling the cold creeping into his bones. It brought such searing pain that he couldn't help but cry out. He grimaced and waited for it to fade.
Sin eater spoke again. "...you're hurtin..."
"Yeah..." Dean whispered, still clamping his eyes shut.
"...you want me to stop it..?"
Dean's eyes flew open at that. "What...what are you asking me, Nate---do I want you to kill me off?!"
"....yes. ...so I can save your soul..."
Dean recoiled painfully from the source of the whisper. "No! No, thanks anyway, I'm fine. Besides, Nate---you'd have to eat a mountain of apples to save me from my many sins... trust me."
"....you are not a good man..?"
Dean snorted. "I'm good enough. But good men do bad things, and bad men do good, Nate. It's not always cut and dried."
Sin eater wasn't convinced. "...don't matter what you done, I can save your soul....let me...."
Dean's heart rate spiked with renewed fear. The conversation had been going so well, but it had taken a dangerous turn. "No. I don't wanna die today, Nate."
But the sin eater was singular of purpose. It was all he knew to do, offering the service for which he had been both sought out and reviled.. "...ain't gonna hurt you.... But I will save your soul. I must...."
Dean's panic rose. He spoke urgently to the empty space in front of him, his voice growing hoarse. "No, Nate! You can't! You can't save my soul, ok? It's not possible!"
"Because...." he sighed. "..because I sold it already. The Devil owns it now, it's a done deal--you're wasting your efforts!"
That was met by lengthy silence. Dean's heart calmed a little, and he shivered in the shadows. He shifted again, trying to alleviate the pain that pulsed from his wrist to his neck.
Sin Eater picked up an apple from the ground beside Dean's head, it hurled through the air, shattering into bits against a black trunk. Dean shivered, afraid to breathe while the spirit ranted.
"...all them sinners, all hell-bound cuz of their own greed and lust and meanness.... all they wanted in the end was for me to deliver them from their due. Their kin would come, all cryin, all begging it of me like I was the blessed Saviour himself! I took their pittances and tarred my soul for all of them, though none of'em ever deserved their reprieve. But you--you damned yourself! Why... ? why would you do this terrible thing..?"
Dean found his eyes watering for a moment. "To save my brother."
Sin eater seemed to calm. It sighed again. "...family is a worthy cause. ...are you afraid.?"
"I'm lying under a tractor, bleeding out, and arguing with a ghost not to gank me. You're gonna have to be more specific."
"...are you afraid...of hell."
It was Dean's turn for silence now. Finally he answered. "....yeah."
The spirit had nothing to say for some time. Nor did Dean. Finally its whisper came again. "...then I will not send you to where I'm scared to go..."
"I appreciate that, Nate."
He really did. He shifted again, trying to sit up, but he was too weak now to withstand the resulting hurt. He groaned and curled up a little, feeling so chilled in the gloom, out of the sun that still warmed the clearing. And Nathaniel Willard's presence dropped the temperature significantly. He closed his eyes and drifted for a while.
Sam trudged along the sunny road, feeling nothing of the late sun's warmth on his back, and hating himself more with every step. He tried his brother's cell endlessly, but was met each time with a long period of ringing, and then the damned voicemail. He'd tried Bobby as well, but he too wasn't answering. He stopped leaving messages, worried he'd run out of juice. He turned toward the road again, hoping someone would drive past. Cicadas were singing back and forth in the tree tops along the roadside, as if chastising him, decrying his poor judgement. And of course Dean would be smacking him on the side of his head if he knew he was thinking this way. He'd deride him for even believing he had any control over what his elder brother did. But right now, that didn't matter, Sam shouldered the heavy blame and walked on. Finally he heard the dry sound of tires on gravel. He faced the road again, holding out his thumb hopefully...
Dean awoke with a start, shivering violently with cold. He didn't know what had pulled him back to the present, but he vaguely remembered strange sounds...small hollow thumps. He glanced up the hill, hoping desperately that it was Sam. It wasn't. Apples were rolling down the embankment, the limbs above shaking, dropping their misshapen bounty. He watched, mesmerized, as the golden yellow fruit bounced and rolled with purpose toward him. ---ok, that's weird. He wondered if he was hallucinating, and glanced down at himself, as the apples continued to find their way toward his prone form. There, on his stomach, was a little pile of them, with more and more eerily adding themselves to the collection. Wasps buzzed over the sweet, ripe flesh, angry at being disturbed by the activity. He swept them all off in horror as he heard the sin-eater's whispered words.
...I give easement and rest now to thee, friend. Come not down the lanes or in our meadows. And for thy peace I pawn my own soul. Amen....
"I'm not dead, Nate."
"...thought maybe you was."
Dean moaned a little, struck by the futility of it all. "..Yeah well soon enough, I guess. ..And I told you not to bother anyway, you can't save me. Why don't you do something useful and move this damned machine instead--?"
"...can't. ...too big."
"You pushed it down the ravine--"
"I didn't. ...only held onto my stone. ...didn't mean for it to roll."
"Bert Munro died by accident then--?".
The spirit seemed to fade again. Dean was struck by a lonely sadness. But it returned to answer. "...they bashed in his head, while he lay... begging them to help him......"
Dean's attention sharpened. "They? Who, Nate? ..and why?"
"...Them that skulks in these woods."
"Who, people? Living people--?"
"...yes. the living. Nothing but evil..."
Dean was growing weaker, he felt light-headed, the cold dulling his thinking. "Somebody's doing something out here? Something they're hiding maybe..?"
Nathaniel's affirmative came as a frosty sigh on the wind.
"Who, Nate? Who's out here, up to something-?"
"..his name...is unknown"
Dean got no further information from his companion. There was silence for a long time, but he knew Nate was still there, his own warm breath still condensed in the chilly air. He was losing body warmth too fast.
"Fine, Nathaniel Willard, you can't move a backhoe. Well how 'bout some dry leaves then? I'm freezing here."
Nate didn't answer. But a soft swishing sound floated down from the lip of the clearing, and soon, dry, golden leaves swept toward him, as if pushed by breezes. They collected around him, building into a pile that eventually covered his shivering body. It was creepy as all hell, but Dean was grateful. It lessened his chill considerably. He whispered his thanks.
Nathaniel said nothing. He began to grow restless.
Dean was sleepy, his thinking felt fuzzy, and unclear. He turned wearily toward the sound. "What, Nate? Who's coming--?"
"...them that wants to take my stone away. ...it ain't right, ain't fair, doin that. ..it's all I got."
The icy air that had accompanied his ethereal companion suddenly lifted. Dean knew that Nate had gone. He realized now the significance of the sin eater's words. Someone was coming up to the clearing, and Nate was determined to ward them off, just as he had the others. But what if it was Sam?! Nathanial Willard wasn't evil, but he had already proved that he would do violence to protect his sanctuary. At least one man was dead because of it.
"Nate? Nate! Nathaniel!" he cried out after him, but there was no response. Dean swore, terrified that Sam was in jeopardy, and he gritted his teeth, rolled over and pushed his pinned arm down hard. He howled in pain and frustration, streaming tears as he felt the flesh and bone move off the metal. But it hurt so much, he was too weak, and he couldn't keep it up. He fell back with a sob, as roaring blackness enveloped him.
Member No.: 29,179
Joined: 25-December 07
Hey--Happy Everything to you. Thanks for reading and leaving comments!
Sam waved with relief at the occupant of the gleaming new black Ford.
The man leaned out of the truck window, smiling benignly. "Where you headed?"
"Not too far. My brother..uh..lost his keys, he asked me to come out with the spare. He was going hiking, he parked at a restaurant along the highway." He hopped up into the cab of the pickup, grateful that this individual seemed friendly enough.
"You must mean Molly's, then. That's only a few miles up the road. --Place is shut down, your brother woulda been outa luck if he was looking for dinner."
Sam nodded, distracted with worry. The man continued chatting. "Hiking, eh? Beautiful country around here. Your brother a hunting man?"
"Uh, no--not really. He just likes to get out into the woods, take some pictures, that kind of thing. We're just passing through, but we thought we'd take a day to enjoy the area."
"Uh huh. Lots of people like to do that. Gotta be careful around these hills though, plenty of old mines, and wild critters. A man can get lost out here pretty quick, just disappear. Where are you staying?" It was an innocent question, Sam saw no need to avoid answering. They were no doubt already subjects of the gossip grapevine anyway.
"May Adam's house."
The driver nodded, and offered Sam a smoke, which he declined. Sam had a moment to admire the new vehicle, which was a sharp contrast to the majority of beater pickups he'd seen so far.
"Nice truck. 2008?"
The driver smiled proudly. "Yep. Super duty one ton Hemi. I could pull a bus out of a swamp with this sucker. Sucks fuel like a bitch, but there's a price to everything, right..?"
Sam didn't have a chance to answer, as the Impala came into view as they rounded the corner. The man's eyes narrowed slightly as he pulled in behind the car, but his demeanour remained unchanged.
"Well there you go. You say hello to your brother, now. And better warn him to watch his step out here. Like I said, plenty of dangers to put a man in the ground before his time." He smiled warmly and Sam got out, thanking him. He waved as the shining truck drove off and faded from his view. As he opened the locked Impala door, the phrasing of his companion's conversation began to bother him. If the man hadn't been so affable, he might have taken it as a thinly veiled threat. But he shunted it from his mind, more concerned about Dean's whereabouts. His older brother didn't like the woods, but he was no novice to staying ahead of anything that was a potential danger,---the least of his worries would have been old mine shafts or forest creatures.
He quickly examined the interior. Nothing looked out of place, it was exactly as Dean would have left it. He reached under the passenger seat and found his hunting knife, securing it under the elastic of one of his socks, just in case. While he was at it, he popped the trunk and retrieved a gun, fervently hoping he wouldn't need to use it. He locked the car and stood, scanning the rolling ground and the blue green hill beyond. The new trail was obvious, he glanced around to make sure he was alone, and set out.
Within a short time he too came across the pile of logs that had rolled off their trailer. He stopped and took the opportunity to call Dean's name. There was no answer, and he trudged on. The trail widened and entered the clearing that Dean had described. Definitely an old homestead. He stopped again to call, but his voice echoed in the trees and was answered only by the wings of a fleeing bird somewhere high in the canopy. He could see a flattened path snaking through the long grass, where someone had walked recently. He followed it, passing the ruined outbuildings, the stone foundations. It continued on, and he found himself ducking under the branches of the old orchard. He stopped to call again, but it was met by silence. He saw the freshly graded soil just beyond, and remembered Dean's description of the stone. He searched for it and found it, and he crouched, placing his hand on the sun warmed marble. He traced the lettering with his finger. Sin Eater. He sighed with worry, and was about to stand when he was pelted by a soggy object. He spun in surprise as it rolled to his feet. An apple. It must have detached from the tree and dropped onto him, although he was surprised at how hard it had struck him. But when the second one hit with equal force, he was sure now that it was no natural occurrence.
"Dean--?" he called hopefully.
No answer. But another ripe fruit flew at him and shattered against his temple. Sam swore, wiping away the bits as he glanced around wildly for the culprit, and he backed away from the stone. It was then that he felt it, the sudden, eerie drop in air temperature. He felt a cold wisp against his ear, and he heard it, the whispered word--
He backed away into the clay swath, hands up, ready to defect any further volleys. The word sighed in his ear again, and his heart began to race. He had no salt, or iron--nothing to discourage the presence that made itself known now. He began to run, stumbling in the sticky clay, and tangles of vines. More and more apples bounced off him, he roared in frustration, ducking as many as he could. He skidded to a stop, huffing, at the sudden, echoing sound. He squinted against the onslaught of flying fruit, straining to hear.
A voice, anxious sounding words, came from somewhere below, in the ravine. It was followed by a broken wail, then nothing.
Sam knew that howl. He knew the voice, and he broke into a run, guessing at the direction from which it came.
"Dean? Dean!" he called frantically. He was met with silence. He reached the edge of the gully and stared down, scanning desperately. He saw the tangled backhoe. And after a moment, he saw a familiar pair of boots sticking out from a pile of leafy detritus beside it.
Sam plunged down the slope, heedless of the steep and slippery terrain, and he reached the pile, falling to his knees and frantically brushing away the dry, crunching cover that obscured Dean's body. He found his pulse, breathing out his relief, and held his face in his hands. His gentle, urgent words brought Dean back to surface.
"Sam--" he groaned.
"Shhh, don't talk." Sam checked him over quickly. He was horrified by what he saw. The backhoe bucket, the rusted and dirt encrusted iron tine buried in a bloodied forearm-- He reached under his brother's shoulders, pulling him up.
"Don't--" he cried weakly. "Sammy, don't---my shoulder's out--"
Sam laid him back down softly. "Jesus, man--what happened?"
Dean grimaced, and blinked away his fog. "It rolled. --caught my arm. Pulled my shoulder out...Sam, the sin eater--"
"I know, Dean. The spirit attacked me up on the clearing, we're not safe here--I've gotta get you out of here."
Dean struggled to stay lucid, the pain in his arm and shoulder was passing through him in stomach-turning waves. "No--he's not--not the only threat. Sam, I know his name--but there's more--"
Sam was busy examining Dean's arm in order to free him. He saw the results of the tactic Dean had tried--the soil clawed away from beneath his elbow. He quickly ascertained that it was the only way. "Tell me later. I have to get your arm free, ok? I'm gonna do what you tried, I'll dig the dirt out from under, then I'll push your arm down. Are you ready for that?"
Dean groaned. "No...but do it anyway.. Just don't move my shoulder--"
Sam nodded. He clawed and scraped at the soil and roots under Dean's arm, until the hollow was deep enough to clear the point of the tine when he pushed. He glanced anxiously at Dean, who had his head turned away, and was squeezing his eyes shut, his mouth a tight line. "Ok Dean, on three--"
Sam pressed firmly. Dean tensed, and shuddered, moaning as the metal slid out. He grabbed at Sam's shirt. "Stop! --wait, Sam--"
But Sam kept pushing until the arm was free. When the tine was out, he pulled the arm clear and laid it across Dean's chest for a moment. Dean was panting, fighting blackness, tears streaming from his eyes. As he lay there, coming to grips with the pain, Sam took a moment to survey the damage. There was a vicious, gaping puncture, all the way through, and he had felt movement in one side of the arm when he'd pressed, --at least one of the bones was broken. The wound was filthy with soil. He saw now the extent of the bleeding too. He carefully lifted the sodden sleeve, and found the cord twisted tightly at the elbow. --Smart. Sam understood that Dean had probably saved his life by tying off the arm. And once again he was impressed by his brother's strength and savvy in dire situations. It was more than their father's training, it was character.
He let him rest for a while. "How are you doing?"
Dean gave a thumbs up with his right hand. The next issue could be addressed. Sam had reset his brother's shoulder several times before---it was a weak spot, caused by a bad dislocation several years before, and it separated easily ever since. "I'm going to turn you onto your stomach, ok?"
Dean grunted. Sam gripped him, holding his injured arm, and skillfully rolled him. He put his knee in the middle of his back, and after counting three once more, he pulled the arm out, manipulating it until he felt it slip back into its proper place. Dean yelled against the forest floor, squeezing a fistful of dirt until moisture streamed out between his fingers. But his relief was instant once his arm was back in place, it ached sharply, but at least it felt right again. "Thanks--" he panted.
Sam patted his good shoulder in response. He was worried about a recurrence of his encounter with the apparently angry Sin Eater. Dean needed a few moments to recover, but they had to get to safety as quickly as they could. "Dean, do you think you can walk? I can try to carry you..."
Dean slowly, carefully, rolled himself on to his back. "I'll try in a minute. How'd you get here?"
"Hitch-hiked. Got a lift with a guy in a new black pickup. Seemed friendly"
Dean was still suffering the effects of his ordeal, he tried to clarify his mental processes, which were starting to feel disconnected from the present. He felt like he was wrapped in velvet, muffling sound and sensation. More than anything he wanted to be out of the damp and sour earth and in a bed somewhere. He vaguely remembered a similar vehicle at the post office. He wanted to say something, but it escaped him. Instead he drifted off.
Sam shook him awake. "Dean, you've got to stay with me, ok? I'm gonna get you on your feet, then we'll go to the car. You need a doctor, you've bled too much already."
Sam reached under his shoulders and carefully hauled him upright. After a moment, he pulled him up to his feet. But Dean was unable to stay that way, his knees buckled and Sam caught him. "It's ok, I've got you." He got his heavy form over his shoulder and carried him in a fireman's lift up the bank. Once at the top, he sat him down by the apple trees for a moment. Dean leaned against a trunk and steadied himself. Sam was about to raise him once more to his feet, when he suddenly felt the air chill. His breath became visible, and he was filled with dread. He knew that the spirit was in their midst once more. "Dean--!"
Dean had felt the change as well. "I know, Sam, it's ok.." He addressed the empty space between them.. "Nathaniel Willard, meet my brother, Sam Winchester."