What’s sixty feet tall and thirty feet wide? The tree monster that wants to kill Dean. What’s bigger & stronger than a tree monster? Dean’s little brother Sam. Written for Angel’s Rest. Set in Season 5.
Uh – no.
This isn’t how it’s supposed to be going. Not at all.
We’ve been having a lot of that lately. Things not going how they should. How we want them to. Welcome to the Apocalypse.
It’s getting dark. I’m on the ground in mud and leaves and tree roots, with my shirt sliced open and some of my skin too, so probably not all of that dampness I feel under my hands is the mud or the rain.
Sam’s in front of me. I know because I’m trying to use his pant leg to haul myself upright.
That’s not working too good.
He’s got the machete in one hand, and the other hand he’s using to make a “c’mon, big man” gesture at our current opponent.
A friggin’ tree monster of all things.
“What’s the matter? Hunh? Afraid to pick on somebody your own size?” Sam is asking. As soon as I can handle the pain I’m in, I’ll let his dig at my height bother me. Right now, I’m too busy trying to become vertical again. “I’ve heard of Tulip trees, I’ve heard of Bird of Paradise trees, I never heard of a chicken tree,” he keeps on. I swear he sounds like he’s enjoying this.
“Sam?” I try because maybe pissing off a sixty foot tall, thirty foot wide tree isn’t such a good idea. Especially when it can walk and growl and hate. And right now it seems to hate me. One long, cutting swipe with a branch when I sure wasn’t suspecting it and I’m bleeding, gasping, and really really light-headed. “Sam?“
“It’s all right Dean. I’ve got it.”
Right. He’s got it. A machete in his hand. A flame thrower at his feet. And in front of him a pissed-off tree that can friggin’ walk.
This is not good. Not at all.
I keep trying to get to my feet somehow, pushing myself up the thankfully non-walking tree behind me, pulling myself up the wall of Sam Winchester in front of me. Something. Anything. Only nothing is working and I’m still on the ground, in the mud, on my knees, having my little brother protect me.
“C’mon – take a swing at me why dontcha?” Sam is still antagonizing the first enemy we could build a house out of. But ‘Big and Barky’ out there seems to only have eyes for me. Which is puzzling and creepy. I don’t know why it’s not taking a swing at Sam standing right in front of me, big as life. He makes a bigger target than even I did but all he’s getting is something that sounds like growling and some movement that looks like the tree is actually trying to see around him.
Only Sammy’s not letting it.
“Picked on the wrong hunters this time, didn’t you?” I shout out at it. I mean, who knows if it ever picked on any hunters before, but we’re always the wrong hunters to mess with.
“Dean – don’t piss it off.”
“What the hell do you think you’re doing?” I have to ask Sam.
“Well apparently it doesn’t want to skewer me.”
He turns his head just a little to answer me and Barky must try a feint around him because Sam snaps back, up to his full height and then some, and slashes out with his machete. I hear the sound of twigs cracking and a cry that sounds like roaring wind over open bottles.
“Yeah, try that again.” Sam says.
Apparently this thing has been menacing people since before Columbus, if you go by the Native American stories. Ripping and slicing people when it can, killing them when it wants to. One piece of lore says that a forest of these things crossed the land bridge from Asia to North America way back when the continents were still connected. All I know is that the one in front of us is big and pissed and moving.
“Can you stand up?” Sam asks me.
“Trying.” Is all the answer I can manage.
“Don’t if you can’t.”
Right. Because I want to stay on the ground in the mud where an ancient pissed off tree spirit can step on me if it can’t get me any other way. But it’s not getting past Sam, and it’s not even trying. If I can get up, we can get to the car. I doubt even a monster tree can outrun an Impala.
I tug myself up Sam’s pant leg again, smearing mud and blood and brown crushed leaves on him. Then I’m tugging on the back of his jacket and finally I’m upright if not too steady and just as I’m about to take a step out and let Barky get another good look at me, I’m completely penned in by Sam’s long arm sweeping me behind him.
This isn’t how it’s supposed to be going. I stand in front. I take on the monsters. I protect Sam. That’s it. Case closed. End of story.
And then suddenly I’m on the ground again, so fast it’s not even funny though I swear I hear a chuckle out of Barky. Or some sound that sounds amused. Without looking at me, Sam reaches a hand back and down to me, while he keeps the machete – and his sarcasm – front and center.
“I’ve used bigger trees than you for toothpicks. Is that dry rot or am I just scaring the sap out of you? I bet you’re nothing but soft wood , aren’t you? Guess it’s a good thing trees reproduce asexually.”
Where did my innocent little brother learn to say things like that?
He wiggles his hand, the hand that’s near me, wanting me to grab hold, and I do and somehow he manages to pull me to my feet without dislocating his shoulder. The shoulder that I now have to hang onto to keep my feet while the world wheels.
“Back.” He says. He’s taking another swing with the machete when he says it, so I have to ask,
“Me or Barky?”
“You talking to me or the tree?”
“YOU. Back up.”
“Gee, all right. You don’t have to yell at me.”
I take a step back, trying to avoid the nearest tree in a sea of trees. Bossy Sam. Bossy Little Brother. Still, it’s better than the blank little brother I’ve had next to me the past couple of months. The blank – just the blank space I’ve had next to me. I would’ve tracked this thing down weeks ago if I knew that was all it would take to put some life back in Sam.
He reaches down to grab the flame thrower and Barky tries for an overhand grab at me but Sam roars up again with the machete, landing a solid hit that jams the blade into the tree’s arm. Branch. Whatever. It sticks there, Sam tries to pull it free from the tree but it sticks there. The tree tries to pull it free from Sam, but Sam hangs on. He shouldn’t be able to out-pull a tree, at least I don’t think he should, especially one-handed but he does. The tree doesn’t even lift him off his feet. A couple of wiggles and the machete pulls free and Barky rears back with all the force it’d been trying to force on Sam.
I guess that’s what happens when Unstoppable Object meets with Immovable Sasquatch.
“Back.” Sam tells me again. Oh, happy to oblige. I’m still hanging onto his shoulder, still leaking blood, still standing on rubber feet on unsteady ground, but I make those feet move backwards, one step at a time, feeling for rocks and tree roots and anything else that might want to take me down.
I feel in my pocket for the car keys just to be sure I have them, but I’m not taking them out until we’re at the car. All I need is to drop them here in the near dark at the feet of an angry tree. That’s all I’d need. Barky would still be pissed and Sam wouldn’t feel too kindly himself either I’m guessing. So I leave the keys where they are and keep walking backwards. One step here, the next step there, with a twist of Sam’s jacket tight in my hand.
We get to a part of the forest that’s more dense with trees than the clearing Barky was hanging out in. We gain some ground because even a walking tree has to slow down negotiate through non-walking trees. The car is maybe one hundred fifty feet away, we can make it easy.
Well, maybe not that easy, but as long as the tree monster has to pick its way through, we should be okay. And I think our deciduous friend gets the same idea because it leans toward us and roars, reaching for us, for me, really not happy.
“Your bark might be worse than your bite, but it can’t be worse than your breath.” Sam starts up again. Do trees, even monster trees, understand English I wonder. And no sooner do I wonder than something really scary happens – and considering the night we’re having so far, that’s really saying something. Barky apparently has had enough with being nice and shoves past a pine tree that with a shriek and a groan – falls right toward us.
“Oh shit.” Sam realizes. Nothing gets past him. For the first time tonight, he turns his back on the tree from hell to grab me and run. I’m still not steady but an ounce of Sammy’s determination is worth a pound of my effort and for a few tantalizing seconds I think we’re home free. Then the sound of the falling tree is literally right on top of us and one second I’m running as all out as I can get, the next second I’m down in the mud again, squished against the far side of a rock, with Sam pinning me from behind and I barely have time to think before pine needles and branches speed down on top of us and crack and splinter around us and by some miracle we don’t end up as shish kabob.
“Move.” Sam tells me and grabs me and hauls me up through those pine branches and out into the standing forest again and I vaguely wonder if the machete is anywhere dangerously close to me as we run the last couple dozen yards into the open, across a shallow creek and into the muddy dead end forest road where the Impala waits.
“Get in the car.” Sam tells me. Behind us, we can hear Barky felling a half dozen more of its kind that are inconveniently in its way. “It can’t get you if you’re in the car.”
I hesitate. Part of it is I don’t like being bossed around. I’m glad Sam found something that perked him up but let’s be real here.
“What if it tries?” I ask. “It’ll scratch the car.”
Sam gives me such a look it’s a wonder his eyes don’t fall out.
“Are you an idiot in real life or do you just play one on TV?” He barks at me. “Get in the damn car.”
“I’m not leaving you out here with that.” I tell him. “We both get in and go get help to end this thing, or we both stay out and end it right now.”
Yeah, right now, Sam could put me bodily in the car and there isn’t much I could to stop him and I think he’s just about to try when Barky downs the last tree between it and us and it lands so close to the car I think it does put a scratch on it. And when there’s nothing left between us and it, then there’s not much left to do but what we do best, so Sam tosses me the machete and hefts the flame thrower and we brace ourselves.
It hesitates though, right at the stream, the tree stops its journey of destruction and seems to be considering what to do next. A walking, snarling, angry tree is a scary thing to behold but a walking, snarling, angry tree stopping to think about something is even scarier. Especially when it looks like it’s looking at me.
“Come on!” Sam yells at it. “I’ve got pencils I wanna sharpen.”
He’s standing in front of me which is good right now because I’m grinning at his choice of taunts and his bravado. This morning he was a hunk of misery and regret, huddled in the car, silent and distant. Now I can’t get him to shut up from pissing off Paul Bunyan’s worst nightmare. That’s the Sam Winchester I know and love.
The tree apparently doesn’t have the same feelings for Sammy as I do because it ignores him and doesn’t take any step closer. It’s looking at me and grumbling in its – trunk I guess, but it doesn’t move closer. It must know Sam has its destruction in his hands and it takes a step backward. We can’t chase it into the forest again.
“Hey, Barky!” I shout and move out around from behind Sam. “Over here! You want me? You gotta come get me!”
“Dean – don’t.” Sam tries but it’s only way. I need to be in front. I need to take on this monster.
“You want me? Here I am.“
Barky takes the bait and moves closer trying to get to me, over the stream, far enough out of the forest that when we set it on fire, we might not set the whole forest on fire too. It moves close enough that with a flick and a squeeze, Sam lights it up and the whole night with it, and the shrieks of outrage sound like a freight train bearing down on us. Flames shoot up into the sky and sparks shower down on us and we have half a second of satisfaction before reality sets in again.
“We better get out of here before somebody comes to check that fire.” Sam says. I toss him the keys and he tosses the machete and flame thrower in the trunk, then he stashes me in the passenger seat and he gets behind the wheel and we book out of there bound for the farthest place we can get in the shortest amount of time.
He pulls off as soon as we can to a grungy gas station and has a look at my shoulder in the even grungier men’s room.
“It’s gonna need stitches, but not here. God only knows what I’d stitch into it if I did it here.”
So he washes it out with bottled water and tapes it around with gauze and I don’t like the silence that comes with the first aid.
“Dude – you took on that tree practically one-handed.”
I say it with pride because I am proud of him. Sam only keeps a grim look on his face as he keeps bandaging me. Finally, when he’s behind me and I can’t see him, he says,
“It wasn’t getting you. It just wasn’t. I wasn’t gonna let it.”
Just as I’m guessing Paul Bunyan has gone for his nap and world-weary Sam has made his reappearance, he stands in front of me again and asks, with some amusement,
I shrug, which turns out to be a painfully bad idea.
“Seemed appropriate.” I say.
He smiles, but it’s a tired smile and we get back in the car and back on the road and Sam settles back fast into not talking. Could be exhaustion. God knows I’m exhausted, and in pain, and still feeling pretty good that we got the job done, and not too shabbily if I do say so myself. We drive a few hours through the night and the darkness and maybe around midnight Sam pulls over at a motel and gets out to get us a room. He walks tired and looks unhappy but when he gets back into the car a few minutes later, he’s got a small smile on his face.
“What?” I have to ask.
“They had the news on in the office. Seems there was a really bad storm in the State Forest a few hours away from here. Outta nowhere lightning hit a tree and caught it on fire and they think a tornado came through and took out a whole swath of trees. From what they said, sounds like it was really bad.”
“Glad we weren’t there.” I say, just to be a smart ass.
“Me too.” He offers back, then offers like maybe he thinks it’s not true, “We make a hell of a team, hunh?”
“We always do.” I tell him.
We find our room and Sam stitches my shoulder and I make him coffee and we fall asleep watching the Weather Channel talk about rogue tornadoes and random lightning strikes.