Characters: Sam and Dean (Gen), a story in two chapters.
Summary: Some arguments are never finished, especially those between Winchesters.
Author’s Notes: Written for my Oregon entry to spn_50states. I couldn’t begin to touch on all the parts I wanted to, but I hope a feeling for the state comes through.
x-x-x-x-x Chapter 1: Winding Rivers x-x-x-x-x
“Tell me again why we’re going to Eugene instead of over to… What was it?” Sam asked.
“Terrebone? Isn’t that in Louisianna”?
“This is a different one,” Dean deadpanned. “And it’s not the town, anyway—it’s just near there.”
“So what’s in Eugene, then?”
Dean barely took his eyes off the highway. “A friend of Dad’s that he thinks might know something. A psychic. Lacey Rhodes.”
“Please tell me she’s not one of those Psychic Shack types,” Sam groaned. “Is she? With a big eye painted on the house?”
“Hey, psychics have to make a living somehow, same as us. And if it pays enough as a real job, that’s even easier.”
“Well, at least Eugene has good coffee,” Sam conceded. “Oh, and—is that where we used to get those giant cookies?”
Dean grinned. “Monster Cookies. Yeah. You used to think they were made out of monsters.”
“Shut up, Dean—I was four then. I wonder if they’re still in that blue house down by the railroad tracks…”
“Not anymore,” Dean said. “They’d closed it the last time Dad and I came through here. You can buy the cookies at stores, though.”
“You and Dad went back to Eugene?”
“Yeah, two years ago.”
“Oh. You never said that.”
“You were gone four years, Sam. That’s a long time. A lot happened.”
After that, Sam was quiet. That topic had no beginning and no end.
The sky was intensely blue, one of those perfect summer days that belies the soggy truth of the three-season rainy weather. They drove past the exit to The Enchanted Forest, which was actually a children’s theme park. John had made sure they knew that, after an embarrassing incident where 8-year-old Dean had insisted they should go there and undo the spell.
At Albany, they missed turning off the air-conditioning until it was too late, and the paper-mill stench flooded the car like a gastric catastrophe.
Dean was drumming on the steering wheel along with Aerosmith by the time they turned off the interstate, and fifteen minutes later they were moving up West 8th street. “Geez, I was kidding!” Sam blurted out when he caught sight of the mural painted on the outside wall as they pulled up to the building.
“Tackiness never killed anyone,” Dean said,
Two cups of herbal tea and a few rather grainy cookies later, they were out the door with extra instructions and an earful of homilies—or maybe prophecies, but they were vague enough to be either one. They stopped off for Monster Cookies and again at a Dutch Brothers’ Coffee drive-through, and then they were back on the road.
“God, I feel woozy,” Sam muttered, as the car merged from the Belt Line back onto the Interstate.
Dean glanced at him sideways. “Why do you think I turned the homemade cookies down? Besides the fact that they’re terrible.”
“Oh, man,” Sam groaned. “Well I guess you’re doing most of the driving for awhile then.”
“Like you had a chance, Sam. Like you had a chance.”
The drive out Highway 126 was beautiful, the McKenzie River sparkling alongside the road while Douglas Fir trees stretched overhead. It was peaceful, soothing, and Sam leaned his head against the window and looked out in a happy, mellow haze. After an hour or so, he pointed out a sign for 242. “That’s the highway to Sisters.”
“So you did study the map,” Dean said. “I hope you’re right. Because ‘Scenic Byway’ makes me think of logging trucks creeping along at 20 miles an hour.”
“Instead of scenery,” Sam said.
“More scenic than this?” Dean asked. “That would be overkill.”
Highway 242 wound through old growth forest, around hairpin curves and dappled undergrowth.
“Whoa, slow down,” Sam said. Cars were parked up ahead in a wide spot on the road, probably a tourist attraction of some kind.
“I do have eyes, you know,” Dean said, but he dropped the speed down to a crawl.
“Proxy Falls,” Sam read. “Let’s stop and see what it says.” He got out and read the sign, and then came back and leaned in the window. “It’s a hiking trail to a couple of waterfalls. Maybe a mile to the farthest one.”
“Hiking?” Dean asked. “Why would I do that on purpose? And I don’t really have the footwear for it anyway.”
“A mile, Dean. Not the Bataan Death March. And if you’d wear real shoes instead of your Man Boots, this wouldn’t be an issue.”
“All right, fine.”
They wound around lava flow and scrub brush, veering off to the Lower Falls—a wispy cascade down a sheer cliff. Then they followed the path into the forest, climbing briefly and following a poorly-marked sign to a hairpin turn. They descended until the trail rounded a corner into—
“Wow,” Sam gasped. “That is incredible.” White water parted and cascaded around mossy logs and the fern-covered banks at the waterfall’s sides. “I think I had a poster of this back in college.”
“A poster?” Dean asked. “Why?”
“Scenery. Relaxation.The usual stuff. This one’s just hypnotic, and the water’s so white. It makes me feel completely… Dean. Dean! The waterfall’s up there. Why’re you looking down at the bottom?”
“Look at all these butterflies.” Dean’s voice had a faraway quality to it.
“They’re pretty, aren’t they? There’s a ton of them.”
“Too many of them,” Dean frowned.
Sam burst out laughing. “Too many? Where do you come up with this stuff? Maybe they just like it here.”
“Yeah, they like it too much.” Dean got down to examine the waterfall’s pool.
“Oh for crying out loud!” Sam said. “Can’t you just enjoy the beauty of nature for like, five minutes without going all paranoid?”
“There’s paranoid and there’s staying alert, Sammy.”
“And there’s looking for the sinister in everything, Dean, no matter where or what it is. No wonder Dad never enjoyed anything. He was always waiting for it to kill us!”
Dean’s jaw tightened. “Dad is still alive—after the war and a lifetime of chasing things more powerful than he is. I’d say his track record is pretty good.”
“And I say, try to live a little around the edges of what we do, Dean. Sometimes a butterfly is just a butterfly.”
“Especially when you’re stoned,” Dean muttered. But he kept quiet while Sam finished looking around.
They made it through twenty more miles of highway before Sam wanted to stop again, and Dean nearly drove off the road when his eyes rolled up at the suggestion.
“There’s a house made out of lava, Dean. I want to see it.”
Like every last bowl of cereal, like every prize in the Cracker Jacks’ box, Dean relented and gave Sam what he wanted.
“I’ll wait in the car,” he said.
There was nowhere to stop for lunch when Sam returned, so they ate the cookies in the car during the rest of the journey to Sisters. “There’s a llama farm,” Sam commented, as they met the crossroads with 126 again.
“What do people do with llamas?” Dean wondered. “Especially out here in the middle of nowhere like this?”
“Beats me,” Sam said. “Turn off toward Redmond here.”
It was nearly 4:30 by the time they arrived at their destination, tired, hungry and thirsty. Smith Rock State Park. A tall, rugged series of rock formations running along the aptly-named Crooked River.
“Check the sign,” Dean ordered.
Sam went over to look and came right back. “There’s no closing time,” he said. Dean parked and got out, bringing a pen and notepad with him.
“So, a half-mile in along the river side of the formations, and then off the trail to a cave-like overhanging,” Dean read from the notes.
“That’s how the reports have gone” Sam said. “People claim they’ve heard moaning coming from that area of the park, and it’s driving tourism down. No word on any disappearances or attacks, though.”
Dean shook his head. “I don’t know why Dad sent on this one. I mean yeah, the panic and the copycat potential are there. But it’s not actually hurting anyone. We usually leave them alone if they’re not bothering anyone. Live and let… be dead.” He chuckled at his own joke, ignoring Sam’s You are such a dork face. Dean looked at the notes again. “Plus, we didn’t bring anything to send it away.”
Sam shrugged. “The psychic said rock-salt and bone-burning wouldn’t work on this one, so it doesn’t really matter. Let’s check it out first, and then come back with what we need.”
They followed the trail into the rocky walls, hardly seeing anyone along the way. Sam monitored the time—7 minutes—and they slowed down and looked more carefully all the way to 12 minutes. “The only thing I saw that was close was back there a ways,” Sam said.
“The EMF meter didn’t budge,” Dean said, “but we could turn back and move in a little closer.” They reversed direction, stopping at a large crevice in the rock face. An alcove was visible to the left, up along the rocky slope. “Let’s get closer, check it out,” said Dean.
As the walked up the incline, the EMF meter woke up and registered something ahead. “Guess the reports were right,” Sam said.
“Well now that we know where it is, we’ll get some supplies and come back.”
They walked back to the car, waiting until they were farther away before talking. “Lacey said it was a Native American spirit trapped in there, one that’s waiting to move on,” Sam said.
“She also said to bring it a meal for the journey to the afterlife, and a piece of the sky so it could find its way there,” Dean countered. “I still have no idea what we’re supposed to do about that last part.”
“Maybe it’s not supposed to be taken literally,” Sam said. “Maybe it’s a metaphor for something that’s from the sky, or that’ll remind it of the sky.”
“I hope so,” Dean answered. They’d reached the parking lot, and stood under a nearby clump of trees. A bird squawked overhead.
“What about a feather?” Dean asked suddenly.
“Yeah, I like that idea,” Sam said. “A blue one would be even better, if we could find it. There might be one from a blue-jay around here, or along the way back into town.” The two of them searched the ground while Dean kept thinking.
“The only other thing I can think of is a mirror,” he said. “Something that reflects the sky.”
“Then I hope this is an older spirit,” Sam mused. “With a feather and a mirror, someone who knows how to use them could be halfway to creating a spell.”
“At this point, I think the spell it wants is the one for leaving. So we’re probably good,” Dean countered. “Let’s head into town.”
They stopped at the Safeway back in Terrebone, arguing over what constituted an appropriate “meal” to bring back.
“Indian spirit, Dean! The food has to look like food. No chips, no candy bars, and nothing freaky.”
“Define freaky,” Dean said.
“Pre-formed things. Exotic fruits. Bottled water.”
Dean pursed his lips. “Water would be good, though.”
“But not in a bottle. Maybe if we bought a mug.”
“Hey, how about this?” Dean leaned over to one of the display racks. “Jerky. If we take it out of the wrapper.”
“Ooh, jerky’s good.” Sam said. “And raspberries or blackberries, whichever they have.”
“Pick up some cold water, and something for us to eat. I’m going to look around the edges of the parking lot for feathers.”
“Wait.” Sam reached for Dean’s arm. “What about the mirror?”
“Get that too. No metal, in case it can’t touch metal. It’ll probably have to be plastic. I hope it doesn’t know what plastic is, or it might find that insulting. Meet me outside.” Dean was gone before Sam had a chance to answer.
With the shopping done, Sam found Dean leaning against the side of the Impala. His brother twirled a blue feather at him in triumph before getting into the car.
When they got back to Smith Rock Park, Dean insisted on taking extra ammunition.
“I want a silver-bullet gun and some rock salt to go with the other stuff,” he said. He handed Sam the gun, and put the rock salt in his jacket pocket.
“You’re thinking it might be something else.”
“I don’t think it is, but just in case. Better to plan ahead.”
There was still daylight when they reached the haunted site. They moved in concert, Dean in front with the offerings and Sam close behind with the backup weaponry. Nothing came out of the cave, and no noises could be heard as they set down the food, water, feather and mirror at the front of the cave. Backing down the slope, they moved off to the side to wait and watch.
It only took a few minutes before something came out to see what they had brought. It was shaped like a man, formed enough to have color but transparent enough to see the cliffs behind him. He had the simple tribal clothes and lithe movements of a hunter, and his attention was focused solely on what lay before him.
With slow, reverent hands he picked up the feather, fingers stroking the bright flare of blue. He leaned toward the mirror, lifted it up and tilted it to catch the scattered clouds overhead. The barest echo of a smile lit his face, and he reached out and gathered up the food as well.
Then he walked down the slope, so close that Sam and Dean could hear his nearly-silent footfalls. The spirit moved to the edge of the river, and taking a step out over the water… vanished.
“Ohhhh,” Sam breathed. “It actually worked.”
“And today,” Dean said quietly beside him, “We sent someone home without having to destroy them first.”
Sam nodded without saying anything, the river winding a quiet path toward dusk.
The stillness lasted as long as it took for them to reach the car.
“So, you want to get a room now?” Sam asked. “Call it a night?”
“Heh. Get a room,” Dean chuckled. “But we need to conserve money for emergencies. We can always sleep in the car.”
“You can sleep in the car,” Sam said. “I haven’t been able to sleep in it since I was fourteen.”
“You can take the sleeping bag, set it up on the ground,” Dean suggested.
“In rattlesnake country? With mosquitoes on the loose? No thanks,” Sam said firmly.
“Just one night,” Dean said. “We’ll stay in a motel tomorrow. And you can have the back seat.”
“What we need is a van,” Sam snorted. “If we’re going to live out of a car, it might as well be a big one.”
“Sam? Do not mention the word “van” to me again. That’s not even funny.” Dean ran his hand along the Chevy’s fender.
“Whatever,” Sam said. “If you two need a moment, just let me know.” Because Dean was not getting off that easily.