daylight_darknight: (Team Free Will)
[personal profile] daylight_darknight
This is my attempt at doing something creepy and slightly surreal. I've been working on it on and off for a year. I finished it almost two weeks ago, but I've been perfectionist nitpicking again. Hopefully, I haven't over edited. Sometimes, I have to post in order to make myself stop.


Title: Up or Down
Characters: Dean,Castiel
Rating/Warnings: PG-13 for some blood, violence, creepiness and minor swearing
Genre: Horror
Word Count: 3939
Spoilers: Set in season 5 but no specific spoilers
Summary: Lost in a strange world, Dean and Castiel must find each other again, but not everything is as it seems.


Up or Down
By Daylight



Dean is in a room.

Half a second ago, he was outside in a motel parking lot. It was night, rain was falling, and a pack of hellhounds was growling from somewhere much too close by.

Castiel had been beside him.

Then he’d felt a familiar touch against his forehead and the breathless, weightless sensation of what constituted as angel transport. There had been a… bump? Was that right? Castiel usually pulled them from one place to another almost instantaneously, but Dean was sure there had been an odd jolt, and now, he’s in a room feeling as if he just dropped from a great height even though his feet never left the ground.

The room is round, empty and white, very white. White walls. White floor. There are only two details breaking up the whiteness of the room, one a large, old fashioned door made of darkly stained wood, the other a spiral staircase travelling along the curves of the walls.

Dean’s eyes follow the staircase up and up and up. Eventually, vertigo hits and he is forced to take a step back just as he realizes he can’t see the ceiling. The staircase just keeps going converging inward into a fuzzy, grey point some great distance above.

But it isn’t the room that really bothers him or his sudden appearance in it. In his odd and beleaguered life, instant transportation is nothing new. He’s almost getting used to it, though it still tends to do unpleasant things to his insides.

What bothers him most is that he’s alone.

Dean does two quick turns around the very much empty room just to be sure.

“Cas?”

His voice echoes oddly travelling upward until it’s suddenly absorbed by the grayness.

“Cas!” he says again, louder and angrier, because it would be just like the angel to drop him somewhere strange and leave him there with no explanation.

There’s no answer and a quick cell phone check shows no signal. So, he heads for the door. He needs to find out where he is and a mysterious staircase isn’t going to help.

His hand is touching the brass handle when he hears the noise.

Flapping wings.

He turns around, but the room is still empty, the staircase still going infinitely upward.

The sound comes again. It’s coming from somewhere above.

He takes a tentative step back into the centre of the room. “Cas?” he asks craning his neck back and feeling somewhat foolish.

The noise rises and falls. It isn’t exactly like the flapping sound that usually accompanies the angel’s appearances and disappearances, a sound similar to a bird launching into the air. It’s more like wings beating against stone. As if a bird were caught and thrashing about trying to get free.

Maybe Cas hadn’t left him there intentionally.

Dean heads for the stairs at a run and grabbing the iron rail, begins jumping up the narrow steps two at a time. The sound comes and goes as he keeps climbing upwards, higher and higher, and he soon loses track of how many turns of the staircase he’s passed through. Looking down just makes him dizzy.

He can’t help wishing Sam was there even though that would likely mean he was in danger too. At least then Dean wouldn’t be racing into the unknown on his own.

Eventually, he slows down and stops starting to feel stupid. Despite the distance he’s climbed, the sound hasn’t gotten much louder. It just keeps taunting him from far above. Someone is obviously messing with him. Or laying a trap. Anyway, there’s no reason to believe the sound really is Cas.

Dean’s about to turn back when he sees the first feather.

It floats gently downward from above passing through the centre of the staircase just out of reach, a long, black feather that glimmers slightly from a light source Dean can’t quite see. He watches as it disappears below.

Another follows and another, like a light fall of snow.

Dean finds his hand gripping tightly to the rail, the cold metal biting into his skin.

But Castiel doesn’t actually have feathers, Dean reasons. At least, not real ones that Dean can see. Aren’t angel wings sort of metaphorical, otherworldly things? Just because they sound like bird’s wings when Cas appears and takes off doesn’t mean they’re actually built like them.

Dean recalls the giant shadows extending outward behind Castiel’s back, silhouettes of wings against sigil covered, barn walls.

On one of the falling feathers, he thinks he catches a glimpse of red.

Dean is racing up the stars again before he even realizes he’s made a decision.

This time the sound of flapping does grow louder. It grows so loud it’s almost overwhelming. He keeps thinking he’ll find the source at any moment, but all he finds is more staircase. Soon, the sound is joined by another which spurns him on even faster. To anyone else the high pitch shrieking would seem inhuman, but Dean has been to hell. He knows all the sounds a human body can make.

Dean’s heart pounds and his lungs wheeze. The muscles in his calves and thighs begin to cramp, but he keeps going. He focuses on his destination trying not to think about what might be happening to Cas and trying really hard not think about what sort of creature could be doing something like this to him.

The feathers continue to fall like a rainfall of ash.

He still hasn’t reached the top when he finally finds the source of the noise and feathers.

And as he stands there on the stairs gasping for breath and staring up at the swirling black mass above him that was definitely not his missing friend, all he can think is ‘Where the hell is Cas?’


oooooo


Castiel is in a field.

He’s on his hands and knees, the grass tall and thick beneath him. When he looks up, he sees a line of trees marking the start of a forest not too far off and above that, a bright sun in a clear blue sky.

This is not where he is supposed to be.

He gets to his feet feeling dizzy and disoriented, and it takes a moment for him to realize why.

He doesn’t know where he is.

Castiel always knows where he is. That talent was written into the core of the angels’ being the moment they were first made. How else could they fly from one point on the globe to another so swiftly or from heaven to earth and back again.

Turning in a circle, Castiel gazes out across the horizon for some kind of landmark, but there is none visible even with his enhanced sight. Grass continues outward in one direction, trees in the other.

And he is alone.

Alarm spreads through his being as he recalls that he should definitely not be alone. Dean should be with him. They had been fleeing hellhounds when Castiel decided the best strategy was to take flight. He had grabbed Dean and taken off.

He had been heading for Bobby’s.

He had been holding Dean.

Castiel looks down at his hands even though he knows it’s not his human hands with which he’d been holding him.

Had he dropped Dean?

He hit something. Castiel remembers now. He hit something midflight. Or had something hit him? All he recalls was the impact, the pain and falling. He must have let go when he was struck.

“Dean!” he calls out.

There is a chance Dean landed close by.

“Dean!”

No answer comes and another scan of the area shows the angel is still alone, but he does spot something he somehow missed before, a gap in the trees and a path leading deep into the tangled forest.

With no other lead to follow, Castiel heads towards it.

It only takes a couple steps along the path for him to realize the forest is not normal.

The unusual mixture of vegetation is odd and unrealistic. Trees from northern mountains stand next to those of southern jungles with an undergrowth of desert brush. It’s all tangled together so thickly almost all the sun’s light is blotted out. There are no birds or insects or wildlife of any kind. The forest is completely silent. The trees might seem green and vibrant, but to Castiel it feels almost as if the whole forest is dead.

He follows the muddy, dirt path as it meanders on between the trees, constantly shifting direction. On several occasions, it grows so narrow it almost vanishes, but just when he’s about to give up, he suddenly finds it again.

As he continues on, he begins to regret his decision to enter the forest. At least in the field, he could still see for some distance even if there was nothing to see. Here his world has shrunk to nothing but trees that loom ominously over him. He’s not used to such limited knowledge of his surroundings. With his normal senses muted, he finds himself gazing apprehensively at every shadow. He’s tempted to take flight, but without knowing where he is, he reluctantly decides it’s wiser to use the human method.

Not for the first time, he wishes human methods weren’t so slow.

The dark, claustrophobic feeling grows stronger and Castiel almost takes off anyway, but before he does, the path does a sudden turn and the forest opens up into a clearing. He steps cautiously into the open space surprised to find the sun gone and the sky covered by clouds. It’s as if the forest path had taken him into another world.

The clearing is perfectly round, a circle of flattened trees radiating outward as if some great destructive force had been unleashed. In the centre is a patch of grass and a cross, a small wooden cross, hastily hammered together and very familiar.

And as Castiel watches, two hands burst through the surface of the earth in front of it.

“Dean!”

Castiel doesn’t question how Dean could have been returned to the grave he once broke out of or how that grave could suddenly be located in this unusual place. He just dashes to the centre of the clearing, yelling as he does so, but before he can grab the hands, they sink back down.

Falling to his knees, he begins to dig, his fingers clawing at the earth.

The ground is muddy as if from a recent rain and he can feel the dampness seeping through his pant legs. The mud clings to the sleeves and hem of his trenchcoat and he becomes more encased in it the longer he digs.

Several times he feels the hands through the dirt, but each time they slip through his fingers. The soil grows hard and small rocks scrape against his skin leaving his fingers bloody but he keeps digging. With his angelic strength and endurance, he manages to create a hole a foot deep, but he still can’t find Dean.

It’s as if something were working against him, keeping Dean from him.
Finally, Castiel gets a grip on one of the hands and he holds on as hard as he can. The hand holds on too with equal strength, but instead of pulling Dean out, the angel suddenly finds himself being pulled down.

As more hands appear grabbing ahold of him, Castiel wonders, if this is not his friend, then where is Dean.


oooooo


They’re birds, hundreds of birds, flying so close together they look like a giant black cloud. They could be ravens or crows only they’re bigger and blacker, their gray claws and beaks longer and sharper.

And a moment after Dean sees them, as one, they turn and see him.

Dean hurtles himself down the stairs with an even greater desperation than when he climbed them. He jumps down three stairs at a time holding on to the rail to prevent his descent from becoming a free fall though he can’t help wondering if a fall might be better.

It doesn’t take them long to reach him. Their shrill caws, which he once thought were Castiel’s cries, get to him first, the harsh sound almost deafening.

Then it’s their claws and beaks.

They dive bomb him leaving behind long, bloody scratches. Even their wings feel sharp against his exposed skin. His clothes offer some protection but not much. The birds circle in a tornado around his head each taking a turn to attack, sometimes several at a time. Sometimes they hit so hard he’s almost knocked off his feet.

Dean stumbles a few times but holds tighter to the rail and uses his free hand to protect his face with the not unreasonable fear that they’ll try to pluck out his eyes. When he gets an opening, he strikes back. There’s so many they aren’t hard to hit and he lands several satisfying punches, but he doubts his efforts have much effect on the large flock.

The way down seems to take even longer than the way up but Dean has no time to question it. He’s too busy re-enacting a Hitchcock movie. The swirling black mass surrounds him so completely he’s almost blind and he’s forced to focus on feel as he leaps from step to step.

Dean really wishes his brother were there now, not mention Cas, or Bobby, or frankly anyone with a shotgun and good aim.

The end of the staircase appears so suddenly it takes him by surprise.

He missteps and falls.

For a moment there is nothing beneath him, then he hits the ground and rolls. Using his momentum, he manages to get back to his feet before the birds can take advantage, but then he freezes unable to see the doorway through the crowd of birds.

With no other choice, he dashes forward, hands stretched out in front of him, searching for the wall. He almost collides against it. Placing a hand against the rough surface, he follows its curved path as he makes his way around the room hoping the crazy place hasn’t played another trick on him and made the door disappear.

The birds attack with even greater ferocity, driven into such a fury that they start colliding with each in their efforts to reach him.

The air is full of blood and feathers.

Dean is beginning to think they’ll eat him alive when he suddenly feels the wood panels of the door beneath his fingers. With one arm still raised to protect himself, he reaches for the handle.


oooooo


The ground that was so hard to dig through before is now as soft as quicksand. Castiel can feel himself sinking into it as the muddy hands drag him down.

The hands appear from everywhere bursting up from the earth. Cold, pale, and skeletal, they claw at him leaving muddy handprints on his trenchcoat before grabbing hold and pulling down.

Castiel pulls back trying to get to his feet, but the steely grip on his right hand leaves him stuck on his knees. The hole he dug isn’t that deep, but there’s no purchase on its slick walls. He only ends up slipping and sliding in the mud.

Spreading his wings, he tries to use them to drag himself free, but the powerful lift doesn’t come. His wings feel heavy as if each of the feathers were also coated in the thick mud. They beat uselessly above him.

Flight is not an option.

His left hand is still free and he uses it to strike at the one holding his right, but the grip doesn’t loosen. Continuing to struggle against the downward pull, he manages to reach inside his coat and retrieve his sword. The angle is awkward and the hands keep throwing Castiel off balance, but when the blade slices through the air, it hits true slicing in half the hand Cas once thought belonged to Dean.

With both of his hands now free, he switches his sword to his right and begins attacking the remaining holds. Severed fingers soon fill the grave, but for every hand he cuts off, another appears.

Castiel realizes he’s losing ground. His legs have already sunk beneath the soil and he feels the rest of his borrowed body beginning to follow. Soon, the earth will swallow him completely drowning him in dirt.

Images of being buried in the empty grave overwhelm his mind, images of being enclosed by the clinging mud still alive thanks to his grace but forever trapped in the dark.

In desperation, he changes tactics and reaching as far as he can over the side of the hole, sinks his blade into the earth. Grabbing hold of the handle with both hands and using all his strength, he tries to wrench himself free.

Ever so slowly, he begins to rise. He feels both fabric and flesh tear as grips refuse to give, but he makes progress, the slippery mud, for once, aiding him.

Once he’s managed a short distance, he grabs hold of a handful of grass with one hand and uses his other to yank his sword out of the earth and push it back in further from the hole; then he begins pulling again. Repeating this strategy, he continues moving forward until he frees himself from the last hold on his legs and is able to role away from the hole.

He lies there on the ground a moment his human body breathing heavily, the energy of his grace spent. Glancing down, he sees streaks of mud covering him up to his shoulders. There is a long, bloody tear in his left pant leg, and at some point, he lost both his shoes and one of his socks.

He wonders if any other angel has been in such a state.

Suddenly, the ground beneath him begins to shift and boil.

He hurriedly rolls to his feet and makes a run for the trees unsurprised to find the path he took to reach the clearing has vanished.

He knows where he is now and he no longer trusts anything.

Using his sword to clear the way, he cuts his own path, the branches of the trees clawing at him like the hands in the grave. He moves as quickly as he is able, unable to shake the feeling that the hands are just behind him digging their way through the earth.

The trees hold him back and the ground cuts at his shoeless feet, but he presses on.

Eventually, he is able to make out something other than the brown and green of the forest. It’s just a glimpse of white, but he heads towards it. He loses sight of it several times, but he keeps cutting back the branches until he bursts through the last of the trees.


oooooo


Dean slips through the doorway the instant the opening is big enough and slams the door shut behind him.

He rests his head against it a moment and just breathes.

Thankfully, none of the birds made it through. He expects to hear them banging against the other side of the door, but there’s only silence. The only evidence that they ever existed is a few black feathers that drift slowly to the ground.

He wonders if they just vanished the moment he left the room, but he has no intention of testing that theory.

When he finally turns around, he finds himself squinting against bright sunlight and realizes he’s standing in someone’s front yard, complete with rows of multicoloured flowers and a white picket fence. Glancing back at the building he just exited, he expects to see a giant tower, but instead finds a small, white cottage only one story high and looking like something out of a fairy tale.

To Dean it’s even creepier than the mysterious room.

Turning around again, he notices a forest beyond the yard and the moment his eyes alight on the trees, a figure, dishevelled and mud covered, emerges from it.

“Cas!”

Dean runs down the cottage’s pathway calling his name.

“What the hell happened to you?” he asks as they meet up at the front gate. He places a hand on the angel’s shoulder leaving it there longer than he’d like to admit finding reassurance in the solidity of his friend’s presence. “It looks like you’ve been in a fight with the Swamp Thing.”

Castiel is breathing heavily and his sword is clenched in his fist as if he’s expecting a battle, but his expression is one of tired relief.

“You’re injured,” he says.

Dean winces. It might be Cas’ comment or the adrenaline of his flight finally fading, but Dean is suddenly aware of the sting of every single one of the scratches covering his body.

“I’ll probably need to get a tetanus shot and take a bath in iodine, but I’ll live.” Glancing down at his tattered clothes, he realizes they won’t be so lucky. He doubts any amount of mending will make them wearable again. “I’m a little more concerned about finding out where the hell we are.”

“Limbo,” says Castiel.

Dean stares dumbly at him for a moment. “Limbo?”

“It’s a place in-between, in-between heaven and earth, earth and hell.”

Dean searches through his limited theological knowledge. “I thought it was a holding cell for souls you guys didn’t know where to put.”

“It has been used for that purpose on occasion. It’s meant to be empty now, but there are rumours of dark creatures who’ve made their home here.” Castiel’s gaze warily scans their surroundings as he speaks.

“That I can believe.” Dean suppresses the shiver that crawls down his spine as he recalls the demonic birds that attacked him. “Please tell me you know a way out of this nowhere land.”

“Now that I know where we are leaving should be fairly simple.”

“Great. Then let’s get out of here. I’m really not interested in finding out what other tricks this place intends to play on us.”

In silent agreement, Castiel reaches up to place two fingers against Dean’s forehead, but when Dean catches sight of his hand, he grabs the wrist stopping him. The hand is not only covered by mud, but by blood. Dean can see the scraped skin beneath the grime and two fingernails are missing.

“Geez, Cas. What the hell have you been doing? Digging a hole to China?”

oooooo


Castiel gazes at his hand as if he’s never seen it before; then he slowly lets the fingers close into a fist and carefully pulls his hand out of Dean’s grip fighting the urge to yank it away as quickly as possible.

“As you said this place likes to play tricks,” he says.

There is concern in Dean’s eyes, but he doesn’t ask Castiel to elaborate and Castiel doesn’t offer more. Dean has obviously been through his own tribulations and doesn’t need to know the nightmares Castiel fought nor does he need to know the source of those tribulations in a world where nothing truly exists.

Castiel gives their surroundings one last wary survey. He can’t help wondering whether their presence in this world is really the fault of an accidental collision or due to some more deliberate force.

Between the trees, a shadow shifts.

This time instead of touching his forehead, Castiel reaches for Dean’s arm holding tightly as he spreads his wings and takes flight.

oooooo


A second after Dean and Castiel disappear, the cottage, the yard, and the forest vanish too. All that’s left is a gray mist where dark shapes creep silently on the edge of perception.


(no subject)

Date: 2011-10-22 07:14 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] mizra.livejournal.com
Oh, wow, I love this! And I miss Dean and Cas so badly, hunting bad things together. Great job, and very creepy, too.

(no subject)

Date: 2011-10-22 11:24 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] daylightfire.livejournal.com
Thanks so much :) I miss all the Dean and Cas stuff too. Still holding on to hope that we'll see a return of it in the future.

(no subject)

Date: 2011-10-23 02:54 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] maychorian.livejournal.com
Oh, man, very creepy. This was vivid and a very cool ride.

(no subject)

Date: 2011-10-24 04:51 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] daylightfire.livejournal.com
Glad to hear I accomplished my goal. :) Thanks for the comments.

(no subject)

Date: 2011-10-23 05:20 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] jem-018.livejournal.com
so creepy. *shivers*

I loved it.

(no subject)

Date: 2011-10-24 04:52 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] daylightfire.livejournal.com
I'm glad you enjoyed it. :)

(no subject)

Date: 2011-10-27 08:21 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] newbluemoon.livejournal.com
This is really, really good.

Awesome job!
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