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05 May 2012 @ 06:30 am
Dust Devils: This Morning I am Born Again (Chapter 4)  

February 12, 1935—Boise City, Oklahoma

Dust Devils

Chapter 4

This Morning I Am Born Again


February 12, 1935—Boise City, Oklahoma

After more than two days of inertia, a change came, and it began with a slight, undulant tremor. It was close to noon and Florabel sat, busily trying to tame Mr. Hetfield's fever. As she ran her cool cloth over his stomach, a quiver ran through him, significant enough that she felt the vibration through the wet cloth. She stilled her hand, waiting to see what would happen, but nothing did. She resumed, humming to herself. Soon, another vibration rolled through him and then another. The ripples intensified, coming on stronger, one on top of the other until Mr. Hetfield trembled non-stop. He moved his head, his breath coming rapid and shallow. When he shifted his arm, a wounded animal sound came from him.

"Mama! Come quick!" Florabel called, her young voice shrill with fear and excitement. "Mama! Hurry!"

Seconds later, Emma swept in, wiping her wet hands on her apron. "What's all this?" She rushed to examine the fevered man.

"He's movin' around, Mama, but he's shiverin' like he's cold." Florabel'd been impatient for the man to wake up, but now his sudden twitches and moans unsettled and frightened her. "Look, his eyes is closed agin, Mama. They been just a-starin' since yesterday. What do you reckon it means?"

"I'm not sure, honey. Here, hand me that rag." Emma took the cloth and dipped it in the water, running it over his brow. Mr. Hetfield shivered when she touched him, his muscles bunching and shrinking away from the cold cloth. The shivering increased until his teeth rattled like frenzied castanets, his eyelashes fluttering as he tried to open his eyes but couldn't.

"Shhh, Mr. Hetfield." Emma's cloth mirrored his restless wanderings, wiping him even as he lolled away from her cloth.

"Nnuungghhh." A guttural, involuntary moan escaped from him.

"What's happening to him, Mama?"

"I think he's just startin' to come around enough to feel how sick he is. We gotta be gentle, but we gotta keep runnin' that cloth over him no matter how much he protests. He's still gone with fever."

"What's wrong with his eyes?" His long lashes twitched and fluttered as the green orbs beneath maundered, landing nowhere and recognizing nothing. "Is he turning into a monster?"

"You and your notions…people ain't monsters, child." Emma's brows crimped with impatience. "He just ain't got control of nothin' yet, and his body is fightin' his fever. Don't you mind his eyes, now. Just keep cooling him."

Florabel wiped his face, shy and wary, taking care to avoid his roaming, quivering eyes. They scared her. She really hoped he wasn't turning into a monster. He sure was moaning like one, though, she thought.

Emma unwound the layers of bandaging, revealing the gummy, weeping infection. The skin around the wound had grown so tight and hot it had crested and separated, the top layer peeling away in white, flaky sheets. She smoothed his brow and quickly yanked the packing out of the inflamed bullet hole. When the man gasped and lurched up, Emma pulled Florabel off the bed. His eyes flew open in shock, glistening with an agony he could not properly communicate, and he collapsed onto his side. Florabel leapt in to try and help him, but Emma gripped her tight.

"Stay away, Florabel." The man made raspy, inarticulate clicking noises as his throat hitched with the pain. "Run and fetch Old Jeb here and tell him to bring the brown bottle from your papa's old medicine chest. Hurry, Florabel."

"Like a jackrabbit, Mama!"


Emma heard the heedless bang of the screen door a few seconds later.

"Mr. Hetfield, I'm so sorry." Emma maneuvered some pillows behind him. A thick sheen of sweat coated his body and he panted like a wild, suffering animal. "I'm so sorry. I won't touch your shoulder until we git you more comfortable."

"Ungh…Ungh….Unghhh." His staccato ululations filled Emma with helpless pity. Her hand went to her mouth and she shook her head, wondering what god-awful pain a person had to be in to make those sounds. His eyes searched the room, falling on nothing solid, finding no relief from his torment.

"Shhh…shhhh." Emma cooed to him, offering what comfort she could. "It'll be all right, Mr. Hetfield." The man's eyes rolled toward the sound of her voice, unfocused and cloudy with pain. His right hand jerked up to his shoulder, instinctively trying to protect it. Emma grabbed the arm and held it down.

"You cain't touch your shoulder, Mr. Hetfield. You got shot. You don't want to make it worse." She held his hand in hers, gripping it when he tried to pull away with each doleful cry of agony.

"Keep your hand still. You mind me, now." She chided him ever so gently. The young man's eyes roved again in bewildered, shimmying sweeps, perhaps searching for some means of relief as his voice lilted through chattering teeth.

Emma was never so happy to hear the screen door slam, and she blew out a breath of thanks when she heard Jeb's lanky strides entering the kitchen. Florabel's soft pattering feet raced down the hallway and into the bedroom.

"I brought Old Jeb, Mama. He's fetchin' Papa's medicine from the cabinet," she said between gasps of breath. They must have run all the way from the bunkhouse.

Jeb followed seconds later, also out of breath. "Here you go, Em. I'll help you hold him," he said, getting into position on the other side of the bed.

"Keep his arm down, Jeb. He's tryin' to git at his shoulder." She poured a glass of water and handed it to Florabel. "Hold this, good an' tight, now, and be ready to hand it to me when I ask."

Emma got onto the bed with the sick man, and Jeb help situated Mr. Hetfield so that he leaned against her. Reaching her arm around his good shoulder, Emma tested her ability to clamp his jaw shut from that angle. He strained and whimpered, his eyes searching hers in confusion and misery.

"Mama he's a-cryin'. Look!" Florabel pointed to the tears trickling into his hair. Emma and Jeb tilted his head back a little further. "You's a-hurtin' him, Mama! Please stop!"

"Florabel, hush! We's gonna help him. This medicine is powerful strong, and it's gonna make him feel a whole lot better in a few minutes, so just you wait and see, and don't fuss at us."

"Why's you holdin' him down like that?"

"He ain't gonna like the taste of the Laudanum, and since he's out'a his head, he's gonna try and spit it right back out. Ain't his fault, it's just his body's way of trying to rid itself of it, but he needs it whether he likes it or no. So we need to clamp his mouth shut until he swallers. I need to be able to clean his wound, but I cain't with him hurtin' as bad as he is." She nodded at Jeb who'd picked up the bottle and spoon. "Now Jeb, just a little more'n half a spoonful."

The old man poured the brown liquid onto the spoon, recapped the bottle and set it on the nightstand to avoid knocking it over. Emma stroked the man's face and gave Jeb the go-ahead with her eyes.

"Here goes nothin'." Jeb wedged the spoon into the man's mouth and tipped the liquid in. Both adults clamped his jaw shut and held him tight. The man kicked and bucked against them, his neck tendons straining into taut, pluckable ropes. His face flushed, deep and dark, and he screamed through his forcibly clenched teeth.

"Swaller, honey." Emma rocked him and held her free hand to his temple, drawing circles there with the soft pad of her thumb. When she was sure he'd swallowed, she reached out to her daughter. "Hand me the glass of water, Florabel."

The child tottered up and passed her mother the glass, never taking her eyes off the man. Emma tipped the glass of water to his lips and poured in some of the liquid to help get the taste of the Laudanum out of his mouth. They sat there, holding him and whispering as the medicine started to work.

Minutes passed and the young man's body wilted, muscles twitching with aftershocks but growing limp and loose. His errant eyes slowly ceased their rapid wanderings, and what little thought had fueled his pain-stricken panic, now melted into a serene, dream-like sedation. His throat hitched and he swallowed, breathing out a shuddering sigh. Two final tears slipped down his cheeks as his lids closed. Emma brushed them away and continued to stroke his brow and offer wordless, hushed whispers of comfort. When he'd completely stilled, Emma and Jeb nodded to each other, shifting him back against the pillows. Emma covered him and wiped the sweat from his brow.

"Well that was an experience I ain't never gonna forget," Jeb whispered and blew out a shaky whistle. "Lord A'mighty, that poor boy was plumb off his nut with pain. I ever git that bad off, Em, I want you to go to the bunkhouse and fetch my gun from my drawer and you just up and shoot me."

"Shhh." She scolded him. "Jeb, you stop that nonsense. Ain't no one shootin' nobody. He'll be more comfortable now." She exposed Mr. Hetfield's shoulder so she could clean it.

"Is the medicine workin', Mama?" Florabel tiptoed over and leaned on the edge of the bed.

"It is. He's gonna sleep for several hours. You can keep him cool for now, but from here on in if'n he starts movin' or moanin', you need to stop until one of us is here and says you can keep going. He's strong and he don't know what he's doin'. He could hurt someone he'd be sorry about hurtin' if he knew what he done. So don't you keep touchin' him if he so much as twitches." She gave Florabel a tap to make the warning stick. "You hear me? Don't forget."

"I won't forget, Mama."


February 12, 2007—Boise City, Oklahoma

"Don't you fret, now, darlin', it'll come back to you. Your name is Sam Ulrich. You work for OSHA and got hurt on a job site you were inspecting. You've been here with us at the clinic for a couple of days. You remember anything at all?" Abby finished taking his blood pressure and patted his arm.

"I…I'm not sure."

"Well, it'll come back to you. I'll leave you with your aunt and uncle. I'm sure they'll spark your memories." She smiled and left the threesome alone.

Sam's eyes landed on the expectant couple. Before Abby had entered, they'd been grilling him for hours. They seemed like nice people and he wanted to please them, but he was drawing a blank, here.

"Brother?" He picked up the conversation that Abby's arrival had interrupted. He rubbed his forehead with his palm, hoping that would spark a light in his darkness. "I—I don't remember."

"His name is Dean. You remember now?" the bearded guy said.

"Sorry." Sam gave the couple an awkward, guilty smile. "I'm still having trouble with your names, let alone some other guy's." Their expectant faces fell. But, hell, he was still working on remembering the names of small things like cup, baseball hat, jacket, pencil. That was task enough with the items right in front of him. He couldn't picture a brother who was nowhere around. He had no point of reference and the whole thing made him dizzy. He shifted, wincing as pain fired in his side.

The man and woman shared a frustrated glance. "All right, son. I'm Bobby and this here is Ellen. You ‘n me, we go way back. I've known you since you were pint-sized and droppin' deuces in your drawers."

"And you're my uncle?"

Bobby pulled off his cap, scratched his scalp and heaved a sigh. "Technically speaking," he lowered his voice, "not exactly. But we're like family, or as good as. You're a hunter, son. That ring any bells?"

Ellen hit the man upside the head. "You can't just blurt that out, Bobby. He's gonna think we're crazy."

"Dunno what else to do, Ellen. Doc says we have to talk to him about his life, and this is his life. I'd like to be gentler, but we need him to remember." Bobby sat on the edge of the bed.

"I'm a what?" Sam asked.

"You're a hunter, Sam. You and your brother were hunting a vengeful spirit and something happened. Do you remember anything? You're a hunter." He emphasized the word. "That has to mean something, Sam. Try and remember."

Sam looked at Bobby. It did mean something; although, he wasn't able to process the imagery that assaulted him. The darkness crumbled as rapid-fire flashes of what he presumed were memories flitted through his inner viewer: him tossing a lighter into an open grave, pouring a line of salt across a doorway, a man with yellow eyes torturing a younger man, that same young man smashing a mirror, and on and on the images flashed, one overlapping the other. He didn't know how much time had passed, but the next thing he knew Bobby and Ellen had moved in closer, hovering, petting him, their voices breathy with suppressed excitement and worry.

"Sam honey, you with us?" Ellen asked, brushing a smooth, maternal hand over his hair.

"Slow and easy, boy. Big breaths. C'mon, now." Bobby patted his arm. "In and out."

Sam worked to control his breathing, his brow pleating with pain. "I saw some things," he said, confused. "But," he strove to find the right words, "but they're just pictures. I—I don't remember it." He rubbed his temples.

"What did you see?" Bobby asked.

"Just a bunch of flashes. I was with some guy. We were lighting a grave on fire. I saw a yellow-eyed man hurting him." He sighed. "I could see everything, but I don't remember it happening. I don't know who those people are."

"It's okay, Sam. It'll come back. The other guy, freckled face? Good looking sonofabitch?"

Sam shrugged. "Uhm, I guess."

Bobby nodded. "That's your brother, Sam. That's Dean. C'mon. Try and remember him."

Sam sat while Ellen rubbed his arm. "I don't…I can't remember." He ran his hand through his hair, pulling the tips in frustration. "But I know something happened, something bad. I feel like I should remember. It's like everything is on the tip of my tongue, but I can't…" He closed his eyes in deep concentration. "Ugh, I can't grasp it. I reach for it but there's this darkness, this—wind—thing—between me and the memory."

"You'll get there, Sam. Just hang in there," Ellen said.

Bobby stood for a thoughtful, quiet moment, studying the boy. "Look, Sam. I think the way to help you remember is to get back on the case, take a look at the construction site where you two were attacked. Maybe getting back on the hunt will be enough to jar loose the stubborn pieces. I know your ribs are gonna be sore, but you think you'd be ready to get out of here later today or tomorrow?"

"I'm ready to leave now, as soon as I get dressed," Sam said. "I need to know what the hell is going on, Bobby. I may not remember my brother, but I won't leave him out there alone."

Bobby and Ellen exchanged snorts of approval.

"Well, memory or not, you sure as hell still are Sam Winchester." Bobby's wide grin split his face.

"Winchester?" Sam rolled the word around his mouth.

"Never mind, y'damn fool," Bobby said. "It'll come back soon enough. Let's just get you out of here."

Sam gripped his ribs and swung his legs over the side of the bed. "So I guess this means I don't really work for OSHA?"


February 14, 1935—Boise City, Oklahoma

Florabel lay at the foot of the bed, resting her eyes for one sleepy moment. It was after midnight, and the young girl mulled over everything that'd happened the last few days, trying to make sense of it all.

She remembered a time last year, just before the black blizzard, when her papa had roused her from sleep because he'd heard Mrs. Haffner's cereus plant was fixing to bloom that night. With a quiet, naughty giggle, Papa had put a conspiratorial finger to his lips and they'd stolen away, leaving Mama sleeping with little Henry. Her papa had swung her onto his mighty shoulders, and together they'd walked under a million stars to the Haffner's farm. It was past two in the morning when they'd arrived, just in time to witness the plant folks call The Queen of the Night unfold and bloom in the dark, defying the dust and wind that had beaten it until its head had been lying half buried. But on that parched night in early July the bulb had fought the dust and unfolded despite everything.

The plate-sized flower knew nothing of the drought. It had never seen the withering sun and never would. Its delicate, spiny petals reached toward the stars, and Florabel was sure they'd touch them before the night was over. Her papa had told her what a fine thing it was to know that even in the darkest of nights, amidst such hard doubt, that something so beautiful could stir and flourish. That night spent with the cereus flower was the last quiet moment she ever had with her papa, just the two of them, before the storm came and turned day into the darkest night ever.

Her thoughts floated on. She remembered how her mama often used to say it was always darkest just before the dawn. The little girl knew that meant that sometimes things got really, really bad before they got better. They may not have had much experience with the ‘dawn' part of the adage, but they both surely knew about the ‘dark' parts.

Take Mr. Hetfield, for instance. Yesterday she'd been so hopeful when he started moving and fussing. She'd thought it meant he was on the mend, but he'd gotten steadily worse since then. When he wasn't asleep from the Laudanum, he thrashed about in pain and fear. He'd looked so hurt and confused, and that had hurt Florabel to see.

She wanted to help him, but she didn't know what to do. Neither her mama nor Old Jeb knew anymore than she did, so they kept giving him half a teaspoon of Laudanum every six hours or so to take the pain away and let him sleep. He wasn't even able to drink water from a glass anymore, so her mama squeezed a wet cloth over his mouth and gave him something to drink that way. All three of them had taken turns running a cold cloth over him, but his fever only got worse.

There had been another hopeful moment earlier that day, too. When her mama had cleaned the wound, she'd shown Florabel how the poultice had turned gray and speckled with blue-green spots. Truth to tell, it made Florabel's stomach flip to look at, worse than his wound, but her mama assured her the spots were a good sign the poultice was working. Unfortunately, poor Mr. Hetfield wasn't getting better at all.

In fact, with things as bad off as they were, her mama, Old Jeb and even Slaid were all in the room tonight, because they were thinking the man might go to Jesus. All day long Mr. Hetfield's breathing had gotten faster and faster, and ever since the sun had gone down, his moans and thrashes from his fever-dreams had gotten weaker and more pitiful. Old Jeb said the poor boy didn't have the strength to fret much anymore. She'd overheard him say he reckoned the Mr. Hetfield would be with the saints before the sun came up. Florabel couldn't bear the thought of it and had cried before a strong word from her mama had forced her to mind that he wasn't family and to stop fussing over it. She did her best to be brave, but it didn't seem fair. God had sent Mr. Hetfield to her, and now he was going to snatch him back before she could even find out what it all meant. Maybe he'd be like the cereus plant that bloomed when there was no cause or reason to believe it ever would. Maybe.

Florabel stuck her knuckles in her sleepy eyes and gave them a good twist. She didn't expect things could get much darker than they were now, so she hoped dawn wasn't far off. Right when she put her hands together to ask Jesus to let her keep Mr. Hetfield, the bed started to shake and thump against the wall. Florabel's lids snapped open and she bolted upright, staring wide-eyed. Everyone else jumped, too.

"Lord above, he's pitchin' a fit!" Jeb leapt from the chair where he'd been drowsing. He tried to hold the sick man down, but Mr. Hetfield flailed out of his grip.

"Florabel, run and fetch the wooden spoon!" Emma shouted, running to help Jeb pin Mr. Hetfield to the bed. The child stood rooted in place, part in horror—part in fascination as Mr. Hetfield's muscles stretched tighter than she thought possible. His arms and legs thrashed like they had minds of their own while his eyes rolled deep in his head.


Uprooted by her mama's shouts, Florabel ran to the kitchen, grabbed the spoon and tore her way back, handing it to her mother. Emma placed the handle between the man's bloody teeth until the fit passed.

"Is he dyin' Mama?" she asked, whimpering. Emma didn't answer. The woman looked at Jeb like she was about to cry herself.

Old Jeb sighed real sad and sorrowful. "I think he's fixin' to pass, Em."

"Mama! Is he dyin'?" Florabel's chest tightened, as if she had no more air to breathe. Emma ignored her, staring at Jeb as though he'd slapped her. "Mama?"

Emma's spun around, her face hard and dark. "Florabel, you git on out'a here, now. You go on and sleep in your own bed tonight." Her mama's voice propelled her out the door and down the hallway, but she stopped in the dark, gripping the wall with shaky hands and watched her mama turn to Mr. Hetfield.

Old Jeb ran his hands through his gray hair. "You done everything you could, Em. It just don't look like he's gonna spring back." Emma continued to study Mr. Hetfield, either trying to figure out some other way to help him or some way to ease his passing.

Slaid moved in and let out a small snort. "Bah! He'll be dead by morning." He shrugged and bent down, pulling off the man's fine, silver ring.

"Slaid, you leave that be. What in hell's gotten into you?" Jeb yanked the man away.

"Devil Fighter won't need it where he's going. Better with us than in the ground with him." Slaid shrugged him off, but Old Jeb wasn't having it.

"Ain't nobody touchin' nothin'. If this poor wretch gits his amazin' grace tonight, then that thing ain't goin' to the likes ‘a you. You ain't even been around in days nor pitched in to keep this boy breathin'. If he passes it'll go to Em who ain't slept in days trying to save him. You damn fool." Jeb pushed him toward the door. "You git on now. Go on to the bunkhouse. We'll take care of this boy. But if'n we need your help diggin' a grave tomorrow, you best do it without any lip."

"Ya, big, circus-man sized hole. Big grave!"

"Slaid, just shut your pie-hole an' go." Jeb pointed to the door.

Florabel dashed around the corner from where she'd been lurking and crouched in the shadows. She saw Slaid come out and she prayed he wouldn't see her. Once she heard the screen door slam in the night, she released a puffed breath of relief and crept back to the sick-room door. Hugging her knees to her chest, she continued her quiet vigil from the hall.

"Don't pay him no heed, Emma." Jeb laid his wrinkled hand on the sick man's head, watching him fight for each erratic, shallow breath. Jeb sighed. His voice was quiet and sad. "Why don't we give this poor boy a few spoonfuls of Laudanum all at once and just let him go to God peaceful-like? He ain't gonna last much longer'n a pint ‘a whiskey in a five-handed poker game as it is. We'd be doin' him a mercy, Em. Look at him. He's sufferin' somethin' terrible."

Florabel heard her mother's seething intake of breath. She gave Jeb the kind of look Florabel knew better than to disobey. Her mama didn't answer him. She turned and stripped the covers off Mr. Hetfield, leaving him lying in nothing but his under-shorts. A tremor ran through him in from the cold and he let out a washboard, rumbling groan. Emma went to the wardrobe and rooted through it.

Old Jeb tried to reason with her. "Emma, come on, girl. You's exhausted and you done your share. Now let this poor boy go. Even if he was to live, he won't have no sense left, more'n likely. The fits and fever has surely balled up his head beyond repair."

Emma stepped back from the wardrobe holding two large fans. "Hush an' help me, old man," she said without warmth. "I ain't a-gonna poison him just so's we can git a good night's rest. Shame on yuh, Jeb." She handed him a fan. "Let's git him wet from head to toe and we'll fan him until his fever breaks or we do. I ain't a-givin' up."

"Em, what's got you girl? You fussed at Florabel—gave her a right talkin' to because she was gittin' too attached. But you's doin' the same thing. You don't even know this boy, Emma."

Emma released an angry huff and threw a rag into the bucket, pulling it out laden and dripping with water. She let the water slosh over the man's arms, chest and legs. It pooled on his belly and trickled down his sides, wetting the bed beneath him. She lifted his legs and cooled the undersides of his thighs and wrung out the rag out a couple of times over his shorts, saturating the material. She immodestly placed sopping cloths in those private creases where his inner thighs met his groin.

Florabel watched her wet the boy's hair and wrap a cold cloth around his neck. The whole time her mama's lips were set, thin and tight with defiance and determination. She only paused when the man's throat hitched involuntarily and he wheezed out a quick, spiked wail. Each time his insensible protests became too loud or too rapid, she'd stop and murmur in his ear, whispering wordless encouragement. Despite the man's frightful state, he calmed when her mama's soothing hands caressed him. Once quieted, Emma stood back and started to fan him. She looked daggers at Old Jeb until he joined in, too.

Only then did she speak. "It ain't him." She waved the fan back and forth. The man below her gasped and writhed in his delirium. "God help me, I'll be sorry if he passes. I will. But it ain't him I'm worried about. With everything this past year we been put through, Jeb…I cain't…" She batted a tear away as it escaped her eye, a poignant betrayal of her cool, stolid expression. "I cain't bear to watch my little girl lose one more thing that's important to her. How will I ever convince her the world's a good place to be if'n all she knows is this? Dust and death and then more dust on top of it." She fanned the man faster and faster. "I don't want Florabel to know only the bad parts of life. If'n he dies, how can my baby daughter ever understand that sometimes people git better? That God and Jesus is merciful and just? That sometimes you win an' things turn out right? My daughter needs to win, just this once. I ain't doin' it for him. I'm doin' it for my child. I'm doin' it for me. I cain't take a world so gray and dead, Jeb. I cain't. When I breathe, all I taste is dust, and I feel like I'm chokin' on it. So you keep fannin' old man, and don't you stop until his fever is broke—one way or the other."

Out in the hall, Florabel curled in on herself. Warm tears dripped off her chin and onto the cold, dark floor. Sleep closed in despite everything, and Jeb's voice sounded far away.

"All right, Em. I ain't goin' nowheres. You's a terrible determined woman." It sounded like admiration rather than judgement.

The last thing Florabel heard was her mother speaking in that tone of voice that always made sure you did as you were told. "C'mon, let's git to it," she said. "We got work to do."


February 12, 2007—Boise City, Oklahoma

"I s'pose you'll be all right to get on out of here. Just so long as you keep them ribs bound up tight for a couple weeks at least."

"I will. So, I'm good to go, then?"

Doc eyed Sam up and down. "How's the memory? Things comin' back all right?"

"Not a hundred percent, yet. But I'm getting there. My aunt and uncle are helping me."

"I reckon it doesn't much matter whether you're in the clinic or not. In fact, as I recall Jesse Gibson remembered everything the day he got home and saw his little girl. The rest of him is healing just fine, now. The boy'll be ready to defend his title this summer."

"Title?" Bobby asked.

"Why, he's Boise City's Post Hole Diggin' Champion three years runnin' now." Doc puffed out his chest. "He's the record holder." He cleared his throat as he watched three perplexed hunters sit there, blinking like owls. "Well, that's a big deal around these parts, anyway." He pulled himself up with dignity. "Point is, gettin' this boy into his familiar surroundings should help get the memories flowin' better. Leastwise that's what we've found with the others."

Bobby gave Ellen a wincing glance. "We'll work it out one way or the other, Doc."

Doc bobbed his head. "I'm sure you will. Remember, everyone has come around eventually within a few weeks. If he don't bounce back, you just bring him on in and we'll see if we can't get him referred to a specialist. But like I said, we ain't found any sound medical explanation for it, so just keep talkin' to him. Aside from Matt's crazy notions of ghosts, I'm thinking it's all just stress. Get rest and things'll sort themselves out, I'm betting. Abby will get started on your release forms, here, and she'll bring them on in for you folks."

Doc left them to help Sam get ready. The boy rose from where he'd been sitting on the side of the bed. He teetered as he found his center.

"You need a hand there, honey?" Ellen asked.

"No, I got it, I think." He held his ribs and hissed, glancing about for clothes. Ellen stepped over to the closet and tossed the plastic bag with Sam's personal items to Bobby. "Where exactly do I live?"

"Uh, strictly speaking, son, you don't have a permanent home." Bobby handed him the bag. "The closest thing you and Dean got is my house. Y'spent enough time there, eatin' me out of house and home." He smiled at Sam. "But I hope it won't take us dragging you up there to pry your sticky parts loose. We still need to find Dean, first. Trust me, it ain't right that he's not here. Something's happened. He would never leave you alone."

Ellen nodded. "Wasn't more'n two weeks ago he went near crazy when he couldn't find you. He called me frantic with worry. Something's definitely wrong if he ain't here."

Their words sparked a rapid flash of images that threw the young hunter off balance, and he lost his grip on the plastic clothes bag. Both Bobby and Ellen lunged for him. They half walked, half dragged him back to the bed.

"Breathe, kid." Bobby gripped his shoulders, anchoring him.

Ellen rubbed circles on his back and traced her fingers through his hair."You with us, Sam?"

Sam rubbed his temples with shaky fingers, sucking air as fast as he could. "I saw something. Images. I don't remember it happening, but I think they're memories."

"What did you see?" Bobby asked.

"Me and some guy in an old house. He was bleeding, gripping his shoulder. He—he punched me."

"That sounds like Dean." Bobby huffed and rolled his eyes. "He clocked you one good after we got Meg out of you." Sam gave Bobby a blank look, confused. "Uh, don't worry about that." Bobby waved him off. "Not important right now. What else did you see?"

"Me and…Dean." He tried the name on for size. "We were in a building. I was trying to hold on to him." Sam winced, reliving the trauma. "There was so much wind. So much wind." His eyes closed in concentration. "It hit us from all sides." Shaking his head, he winced again. "That's…that's all. It's gone. Damn it."

"All right, Sam." Ellen patted him. "No need to force an aneurysm. You did good. That's much better ‘n we hoped."

"I'm so close." He pinched the bridge of his nose. "I can feel it right there. I just can't…I just can't grab hold of it through that dark…thing. This is so frustrating."

"Let's just get you dressed. We'll get a room, let you get some rest and then we'll start fresh," Bobby said. "Ellen, why don't you leave gimpy with me here for a few and I'll make sure he doesn't put his drawers on backwards or catawampus."

"Yeah. Sure." She picked up the bag of clothes Sam had dropped and tossed it to Bobby. He caught the bag upside down and the small, leather strap fell onto the bed. Sam picked it up, focusing on it.

Fingering the small, horned amulet, Sam felt a sudden, nauseous gravitational pull, as though he had slipped right over the highest peak of a rollercoaster. The world tilted as an avalanche of images assaulted him: A small boy opening a newspaper-wrapped package on Christmas. A young man with a lopsided grin bent over a pool table. The same man, dragging Sam from a fire where someone…his girlfriend…his girlfriend Jess…burned on the ceiling.

Another twist in the track and his memory catapulted him in another direction. More images: The same man…Dean…His brother, Dean…shooting the Shtriga while it fed on him. Dean in the car, belting out songs off key. Dean in the Impala. Dean's Impala. Dean cleaning his weapons. Dean standing broken and blank as they watched their father's corpse burn.

The track fell away and he was free-falling now. No longer impersonal playbacks, the images blossomed into full memories. He felt bloated and pregnant with them: Dean punching him when he'd tried to warn him about Gordon. Dean weeping on the side of the road somewhere in the mountains, riddled with guilt for merely being alive. Dean.

Sam had no tactile sense of Bobby and Ellen laying him back on the bed…Bobby Singer and Ellen Harvelle…Jesus! It took several moments before he heard anything beyond the buzzing in his head as memory after memory crashed over him.

"In and out Sam. In and out," were the first words that penetrated. He folded in on himself, disoriented and nauseous. Bobby's hand gripped his, squeezing. "Come on Sam. Open up."

Sam snatched a lungful of air and steadied himself. Opening his eyes, he found himself lying on the bed in a pool of sunlight. Bobby and Ellen stood over him, worried and expectant.

"Jesus." Sam heaved a breathless grunt. "Jesus, Bobby."

"You remember, don't you, boy?" Bobby gave his shoulder a firm grip. Sam looked at the amulet dangling in his fingers, shut his eyes and took another greedy breath. He swallowed and nodded.

"Dean…" He gasped and his eyes flew open. He flung out a hand, fisting Bobby's collar.

"What, Son? What do you remember? What happened to Dean?"

"I couldn't hold on, Bobby. I tried. But we fell and…" Sam closed his eyes against the memory.

"And what, sweetie?" Ellen asked, bending close.

"That thing. It knew him." Sam clutched the amulet to his heart with a trembling hand. "And it took him."

To Be Continued…

Back to Master Post

Continue to Chapter 5

deangirl1deangirl1 on May 5th, 2012 06:00 pm (UTC)
AWESOME!!! Loved the revelation at the end - though I was beginning to realize that "it" was snatching people deliberately... And I'm thinking it's Slaid, but part of me thinks that's too easy... LOVING this! It's been too long since I've so anxiously awaited someone to post the next chapter of a fic... Thank you so, so much for this!
sharlot1926sharlot1926 on May 6th, 2012 12:09 am (UTC)
Wow, thank you for that! I really appreciate it. Whoever it is that is behind this...Slaid or not...they are really in for more than they bargained for when they picked on Dean. Grar! Such shenanigans will not stand! So says I (and a million Dean-girls!). :)

Thanks again!
janissa11janissa11 on May 5th, 2012 08:06 pm (UTC)
Holy crap. What a fabulous set of opening chapters. I'm always drawn to anything set in the Dust Bowl years (although as much dust as we're still getting, "Dust Bowl years" may soon be "now"), and this is so well done. Gahhh, poor Dean. Not a good time or place to be ill, and certainly not with an infected gunshot wound. Saaaaaaaaaaaaammmy, gotta find Dean! Except -- ugh, HOW?

Looking forward to more!
sharlot1926sharlot1926 on May 6th, 2012 12:15 am (UTC)
I know right?! Although I was by no means an expert on the era, I was fascinated by it. I'm a huge Steinbeck fangirl, and I loved shows like "Carnivale ", so it was really tempting to place a Winchester in that world.

And yeah, definitely not the place where you want to be sick with an infection, but I had fun looking up homeopathy of that period and learning how they dealt with those ailments. And I'm not going to lie...it's a lot easier as an author to research homeopathy than it is modern day medicine. It's so easy to get that stuff all wrong. Much easier to slap a poultice on someone and hope for the best. Heh.

Thanks so very much for the comment, Janissa, I truly appreciate it so dadgum much!
janissa11janissa11 on May 6th, 2012 12:29 am (UTC)
Have you read The Worst Hard Time? It's excellent.
sharlot1926sharlot1926 on May 6th, 2012 12:35 am (UTC)
I did! I did! Absolutely. That was the #1 book I referred to while writing this story. My copy is definitely well worn now. Gosh, I am really impressed that so many people here have read that book.
janissa11janissa11 on May 6th, 2012 12:40 am (UTC)
My folks grew up in the Dust Bowl years in Texas. And it's still so dusty, and I dunno, we ALL read it when it came out. It fascinates me, repels me, horrifies me, etc. The thing is, we've never gotten rid of the dust. It isn't as bad now -- but last October this was the closest to a black duster we've had in a long time.
sharlot1926sharlot1926 on May 6th, 2012 12:49 am (UTC)
Wow, those pictures were amazing! Yes, I've been reading about the drought in that region that's happening now. Good thing the farming practices have improved enough that hopefully things won't be as bad as the dirty 30's. I also read that a region of China is experiencing a dust-bowl right now.

I've never been in a duster, and after reading about them, I never want to! I truly have amazing respect for the folks that went through the Dust Bowl. I read about the temperatures in the summer, and I don't think I would be able to survive THAT alone...not to mention the dust. Holy crap.
Rince1windrince1wind on May 5th, 2012 08:54 pm (UTC)
I hate you and your cliffhangers.

This is very good. I like Emma et al very much. The scene where she gets F out of the bedroom and goes to work on Dean so her little girl can know that sometimes people do get better is very moving.

By the way, have you read The Worst Hard Time? Wonderful book about the Dust Bowl years.

Edited at 2012-05-05 08:56 pm (UTC)
sharlot1926sharlot1926 on May 6th, 2012 12:24 am (UTC)
Thanks so much! Yeah, I think Emma has reached her limit of bad crap happening to her family. You just get to the point where you either fold up completely or fight back utterly. I think she's a fighter.

"The Worst Hard Time" has been sitting on my desk and within arm's reach for months. LOL. It was literally my "go-to" book for Dust Bowl history. I definitely relied on it a lot. I also read "Out of the Dust" by Karen Hesse, which really influenced me. In fact, I discovered the cereus flower in her book. Her character goes to a night-gathering at a neighbor's house and they watch the flower open. In her book, that event is less hopeful than how I interpreted it, but I had never heard of the flower before I read her book and was in such awe of it that I had to find a place for it in my story.

Thanks heaps and gobs for the comment! I value every one of them!
beckydaspazbeckydaspaz on May 7th, 2012 10:32 pm (UTC)
It warms my heart to see SO many folks loving this like I do. Because it's wonderful. It's moving, it's compelling, it's interesting. I really don't think there has ever been anything quite like it. Wonderful job Kat, I'm very much in LOVE with Emma's hard work and determination, that she is ADAMANT that this will not happen again, and not even for her, or Dean, but for Florabel. That's love and it shines through so clearly here. Bravo my friend, bravo!
sharlot1926sharlot1926 on May 8th, 2012 01:00 am (UTC)
It warms MY heart to read your comments. Thanks so much, Puddin'. I can't quite express my gratitude the way I should, but I appreciate it so fucking much. You're awesome! hhhhAWESOME!
tifachingtifaching on May 10th, 2012 11:50 pm (UTC)
It knew him? Well, that's ominous. I love it. And of course the amulet would bring back Sam's memories. That was perfect.

sharlot1926sharlot1926 on May 11th, 2012 12:58 am (UTC)
It really is kind of foreboding, isn't it? So very mysterious! Yes, yes...there is no forgetting the amulet. It would definitely spur the first few trickles of an avalanche for sure!

Thanks so much for the comment! I'm so grateful!