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10 April 2011 @ 05:49 pm
the earth died screaming, 2/4  
He probably should be disturbed by how they look at him when he’s carrying something. But they just don’t get it, they can’t get it; after all, they don’t need anything, of course they’d look at him like he was strange. In their eyes, he is. That’s why Jimmy doesn’t really mind and why he isn’t disturbed. He’s just different to them, and it’s not like they don’t majorly creep him out as a basic reaction anyway; it’s just fair if he creeps them out in return.

It takes him most of the day to get back to his tree and when he arrives he’s tempted to just drop down on the ground and pass out, but he can’t really allow himself that. He opens the refrigerator and drops all the food inside it. He keeps the chocolate bar out because he doesn’t know if he can stand the sight anymore. He’s eating it tonight at some point. Then he digs out the plastic bag and takes off his clothes and wraps himself up in one of the new sheets; he folds everything neatly (he doesn’t know why he bothers, but he needs to hang on to something), then hides the plastic bag along with his new toiletries under the dirt again. When he’s satisfied, the sun has just set and well, isn’t that lucky? He really shouldn’t be on the ground at night. He picks up the blanket and his old sheet and climbs up into the tree. He finds the larger branch again, drapes the older sheet over it and wraps the blanket around his shoulders. It’s not even cold, but it feels marginally nicer than it felt without, and so he keeps it on.

These are times when he hopes he could just fall asleep on the spot, but this isn’t that day. He just lies there, his eyes open, scanning the other trees in front of him. There’s a lot of them. They’re luscious, even. He doesn’t think he has ever seen such a luscious forest in his entire life.

He’s still wearing his wedding ring. He doesn’t look at it, he never does, because if he does –

(… you may kiss the bride, the priest had said (their priest, they had known him for ages, they had met in his parsonage even, when they were kids), and he had kissed Amelia right there. She was dressed all in white and she was so beautiful, so much that he could barely bring himself to touch her cheek. Her lips had been soft and she had sighed against his mouth, and that had been just so perfect, even if it hadn’t been a fancy wedding or one full of attendees. And that night he had taken off her shirt for the first time and she had done the same for him and neither of them had done it before because they believed they should wait until marriage, and then her skin was impossibly soft under his hands and her fingers combed through his hair and –)

if he does he thinks about how much time he missed and about how stupid the both of them were. They wasted so much time. He wasted so much time. He didn’t even get the chance to tell her that he loved her for the last time because she had a demon inside her.

At times, what hurts most is not that his faith got him screwed over. It’s that he had faith in something that never deserved it in the first place, because why would you want to worship things who want to destroy your world?

“I never wanted that,” Castiel says, soft, still in his real voice, and Jimmy wants to cry.

“Maybe, but it doesn’t change the result,” Jimmy answers, knowing he’s talking to thin air.

“No. No, it does not, and from your point of view, it doesn’t mean much,” Castiel agrees, and Jimmy wonders when he became so crazy that he came up with some voice that agrees with him, anyway.

“Whatever, Castiel. You aren’t real, anyway, so why bothering?”

“Why are you so set on believing that I am not?” the voice answers back, soft, almost regretful.

Jimmy doesn’t answer.

He has a perfectly good reason to be sure that Castiel isn’t real.

--

(He dreams about that time again.

In detail.

He never tries to think hard about it, if it happens that he goes there.

But he has no control over dreams.

It was the first time he met
them. He’s sure it was Raziel telling him. He remembers because the vessel was a small blonde girl, around eleven years old, who looked like Claire, except that she had Dean’s eyes.

“Who are you waiting for?” she had asked.

“What… what do you mean? Who are you?” Jimmy had asked.

“I’m no one. I exist because of Raziel. I wait for him. It’s what I am. Who are you?”

She made it sound so simple.

“I… I think I am a bit different, but… it’s… I’m waiting for Castiel,” Jimmy had answered. Wasn’t that the truth?

She had looked at him narrowing her eyes.

“You can’t be,” she had answered.

“Why?”

“Because Castiel is dead.”

“… dead?” Jimmy had whispered.

“Some of them didn’t want something to happen, I think. I don’t know what. But this thing happened anyway, and they died.”

She said it nonchalantly, like she didn’t get what she was saying.

Jimmy still thinks she didn’t.

“Don’t… don’t you know what was it, that they didn’t want to happen?”

“Why would I? It’s not my concern,” she had said, calmly, almost smiling, absolutely accepting.

Sure, Jimmy had thought, you only live for an angel to possess you without even asking you whether you want it or not because you probably don’t even know what it means to choose; of course it isn’t your concern.

“Oh,” she had said, “maybe that’s why you’re different.”

“Really?”

“If Castiel is dead and you were made for him, then he will never come back for you. So that’s why you need things.”

It had sickened Jimmy, back then. He had wanted to say, you can’t just see yourself as some kind of object which will waste away the second it isn’t useful anymore, you can’t, you can’t, we’re
more than that, we have free will, we have, we are, but then he realized that for her, it wasn’t true.

They aren’t. They don’t. They don’t even know what free will is. They don’t know that they can say no because they don’t know what no means.

They’re not even properly humans.

They’re
vessels –)

--

Jimmy wakes up screaming. Again.

He clutches the blanket around his shoulders, hot tears burning behind his eyelids. He feels frail and useless and he just doesn’t get it. Why is he even here? If he’s the last man on earth why is he even alive? What’s his purpose at all?

At times he thinks that he should just climb up higher and jump, or take his razor, go inside that small lake and slit his wrists.

He never does.

He wishes he could say it was because you just don’t kill yourself, and being a vessel for an angel and having sacrificed your life to it hasn’t been enough to drill it out of your head.

It’s that he knows what’s after death, and even if this is miserable, he can either go to Hell, which he’s pretty sure he doesn’t deserve, or he could end up in Heaven, and if this is Heaven on Earth then he isn’t sure he wants to see how the real one is.

Ironic. One spends his life sure that if he does things right he’ll get himself a nice small piece of Eden for a reward, and then he finds out that it’s better not to go.

“Why me,” he whispers, aware that he’s crying. After all why would he feel salt on his lips otherwise? And it’s not like anyone is around to mock him for it. “Why did you have to take me?” If Castiel hadn’t, now he’d just be dead with his wife and his kid and maybe he’d be just one human among others enslaved in Heaven or something, but… he wouldn’t have known. He wouldn’t have had to stand this.

“Cas, really, son of a bitch doesn’t cover it,” he keeps on, and if he’s talking to himself, well, who’s there to give a damn anyway? “Why did you do this to me? Fuck, you promised they’d be okay, you promised I would!”

He’s aware that he’s rambling by now, and one angel alone couldn’t really have kept that promise against all the other ones, but rationality can be saved for… for the vessels, he figures. He’ll be as irrational as he pleases.

“I wish I could say fuck you,” he keeps on, and it’s funny that he still feels weird saying fuck when he spent thirty-odd years not swearing to save his life, “but I can’t even say that because I know you didn’t know. But you really can’t expect me to do this for another twenty years or whatever, can you? I’ll just go even crazier than I already am. Fuck, at least couldn’t you have killed me when you left? Or at least leave me with someone who doesn’t think that their only purpose in life is being a meatsuit? It’s not fucking fun being the last man on earth, you know?”

“You aren’t,” Castiel answers, and Jimmy almost falls off the branch for the shock.

“I can’t... I can’t, I can’t be this far gone, not before ten years at least,” he says, rushed, frantic, because he just can’t. If a voice he made up tells him he isn’t alone, then it means he’s really going utterly mad and he can’t take it yet.

“You are not… far gone,” Castiel says, almost sounding unsure of what Jimmy means, and Jimmy has to give props to himself. He’s imagining Castiel pretty much right.

“You’re dead! You can’t be talking to me and saying what I want to hear unless I’m going nuts!” Jimmy shouts back, and if it means he really is nuts, well, he’ll ignore it for now.

“Where do you think I was when they killed me?” Castiel answers back, and Jimmy doesn’t know, doesn’t want to know, but maybe yes he has dreamed it –

… and this is what your stupid ideas will gain you, someone who has Dean Winchester’s face but isn’t Dean Winchester says, and he raises his hand and he’s kneeling, no, Castiel is kneeling, and he isn’t bowing his head even if he should –

Spare him, Castiel says, he doesn’t deserve –

He served you, the stranger says, he’ll get what you deserve as well.

But I gave him my word, at least let me keep it, Castiel keeps on, sounding almost desperate, I don’t want to die not having kept –

You should have thought about it before, the other angel, because it might wear Dean’s face but he’s an angel, says, but then he stops for a second. But I won’t remove the precautions you already took, and that’s all the mercy you’ll get, he says, and then he moves his hand and brings it on Castiel’s forehead and there’s painpainpainpaineverywhere and –


“You were inside me,” Jimmy breathes out. “But it doesn’t mean anything. I remember it. So? I might be making this up anyway.”

“I was. And yes, Michael burned me out of you. But there is something I can pride myself for.”

“Which would be?” Jimmy mutters back, figuring that by now there’s no going back.

“My… my brothers always underestimated me,” Castiel answers. “You can hear me because I am still inside you, Jimmy. I… when you said yes, I touched your soul. A small fraction of my grace always stayed with you. You can’t see me because it’s not enough for me to leave you, and you have control because I could never possess you like this.”

Jimmy thinks he might throw up.

“Let’s say that I believe you. You were inside me all this time and you choose to say it now?” he’s positively screaming by now.

“Jimmy. Please, listen to me. I know I have no right to ask it of you, but… it’s hard for me to survive like this. Talking to you for long stretches of time just… consumes me. And I did try to tell you, but I’m not surprised that you wouldn’t believe me.”

“Then shut the fuck up!”

Shaking, Jimmy clutches the blanket tighter.

“Alright, maybe I have my reasons to hate you, but if you’re really here then I don’t want you to die, not when you’re…”

“Jimmy,” Castiel keeps on, “even if I didn’t talk to you, I would die. Eventually. A fragment of grace isn’t enough for me to survive on. And if accelerating the process means I can… means I can make amends to you, then I don’t care. I’ve been waiting until now, but I can’t anymore. Please. Will you listen to me?”

Jimmy takes a breath, wondering how he isn’t freaking out.

Maybe it’s because by now nothing could freak him out.

“Alright.”

“You need to go home.”

Jimmy laughs, bitter and without any amusement.

“I don’t even know where the fuck I am. And home is probably falling down in pieces.”

“The town you pick supplies in is named Fairbury. It is about fifteen miles from Pontiac. I am sure you would find enough signs if you walked along the highway. And your house is not. Before I rebelled, I… had taken precautions. In order to protect your family. It did not really work as I hoped, but… you remember it. My precautions are still there.”

“And why should I go home? Just to suffer even more? I doubt Amelia or Claire are there. And couldn’t you share the information before, at all?”

“No, they aren’t. But… there are things I know. Please. Jimmy, go home. You will understand when you get there. I know that you still don’t believe me now, but I had to try.”

Castiel falls silent then, like talking required too much effort, and Jimmy clutches the blanket tighter around him and wonders what he should do.

--

The next morning, he climbs down from the tree, folds all his sheets neatly, folds the blankets as well, changes into his jeans that are way too large and his shirts that have new holes in them, and then he packs up as much food as he can. He puts sunblock all over his face and hands and feet, and then he throws his plastic bag over his shoulder and starts to walk.

Mostly, he wants proof that Castiel is real. If the town is really Fairbury he needs to walk a bit along that stretch of highway and then he’ll find some sign soon enough. If they match, then it means he’s not mad, and he figures he can give that a try. It’s not like he has better things to do like climbing back up his tree and wasting away in there.

He walks around that stretch of highway where the vessels live, not really feeling like talking to them. He’s panting and sweating and feeling like he’ll just topple over and die on the side of the road when he finally gets to a sign (the sun is hot, too hot for someone who needs clothes), and it reads Pontiac 14 miles and suddenly he remembers it, he remembers that exact sign because

once Claire had gone to this party of a friend of hers in second grade and her family had this huge house near Fairbury and they had driven there and they passed that exact sign and Claire was so excited as they drove, and Jimmy had thanked the Lord for having blessed them with such a beautiful little girl and –

Jimmy wipes away tears and starts walking again.

You’renotcrazyyou’renotcrazyyou’renotcrazy is everything going through his head right now. Castiel is silent, but Jimmy knows he probably won’t talk until he gets to Pontiac. And if Castiel is real it means he hasn’t been lying and that there’s something in Pontiac. Jimmy doesn’t know what it is but at this point he doesn’t mind waiting. He keeps on walking.

--

Three miles in, the only thing he’s grateful for is that in the brave new world you end up bumping into small water sources pretty regularly, so he didn’t have to bring water with him. Which is good, because it’d have just been added weight. It’s pathetic that he’s tired already, but he barely eats enough to keep himself not too underweight. He can’t ask too much of himself.

Meanwhile he just would like to know what the hell is supposed to wait for him at home. He knows it won’t be his wife or kid. He also doubts anyone else he knew survived. Unless a short enough time has passed.

“If you can’t answer me don’t,” Jimmy says, still feeling like he’s going crazy, “but can you at least tell me how many years have passed since the angels won?”

“Are you sure you want to know?” Castiel replies, quietly, almost like he’s sorry to give him the answer.

“Well, I stuck with this for at least a year, I guess knowing can’t make things worse.”

“One hundred years,” comes from inside his head, and Jimmy almost throws up on the side of the highway before forcing himself to move on.

“How the fuck is the food in supermarkets still edible?” Jimmy almost screams, and Castiel doesn’t answer for a second. Jimmy can almost feel him wondering whether he should answer and therefore give Jimmy’s sanity the last blow, probably, and so he waits.

“It’s… complicated,” Castiel starts. “Or perhaps it really isn’t. Do you… do you dream my memories, sometimes?”

“Sometimes,” Jimmy agrees, even if he should say most times instead. “But it’s mostly painful stuff. And Dean not being Dean. And light. But it’s cold light.”

“Jimmy, this is Heaven on Earth.”

“Thank you, I had gotten that far.”

“Time works like in Heaven. One hundred years in Heaven time is equivalent to two years in Earth time.”

“… again, please?”

Castiel’s voice sounds half-frustrated. “One-hundred years have passed, but for… for things, Earthly things, human things, it has been just one. That’s why the food is edible. But you perceive time in the human way. You’ve been in control of your body for what you think is one year. But in fact, it’s fifty.”

“Okay. I guess I get it. That’s why the bodies are… well, mummies and not dust, right?”

“Yes. I am…”

“Don’t say it. I know.” Jimmy would like to add it’s not your fault, because it really isn’t Castiel’s fault after all, but he needs to process this and he isn’t at the forgiving stage yet.

The both of them stay silent as Jimmy walks on.

--

At seven miles he’s about to faint. The sun is high in the sky and he can’t stand the heat, but if he stops now he won’t ever manage to get to Pontiac before dark, and he can’t afford to sleep in the open.

Especially on a stretch of open highway. So he grits his teeth and mans up and walks on, and that’s when the woman appears some fifteen feet ahead.

She’s a vessel, goes unsaid. Red hair, those green eyes, completely naked, about fifteen or sixteen. She looks at him like she’s taking pity on him, but Jimmy knows he must be imagining it, because they don’t know what pity is.

He stops when he arrives in front of her. She’s staring at him still, like she’s also trying to figure him out. He remembers that while the ones living near Fairbury are adjusted to him by now and probably just see him as some weirdo who’s at times interesting to talk with, for others he must really look like an alien.

“Who are you waiting for?” he asks, knowing the drill by know. Asking them who they are is useless. They don’t get the concept of being different from someone else. They get the concept of being there because angels need them when they want to come down here, sure, but having a personality? That’s a whole other dilemma.

“Barachiel,” she answers, calmly. “You are different,” she states. It almost sounds like an accusation.

“I used to wait for Castiel,” he answers, the lie well-practiced enough, and she raises an eyebrow. Then she bites her lip.

This is way more of the usual reaction he gets.

“So that’s what happens to us if the one we’re waiting for dies,” she says, calm, like she’s just stating something.

“No,” he answers, way too fast, and why would he care for what she thinks?

But it’s a question of… well. Maybe it’s pity on his part. They might be what they are, but they don’t know it. They don’t know how it was before. And he knows that he looks like a wreck in comparison to them. If it was him in her position, he wouldn’t want to think that… becoming like him would be his destiny if his angel dies.

“I am… I am just not like you. He took me before. A long time ago. When things were different. I don’t know what happens to you if the one you wait for dies, but… this,” he says gesturing at himself, “I don’t think it’s the case. Believe me, I don’t think you will ever have to worry about it.”

She looks at him again, just staring, maybe getting it and maybe not, and then Jimmy moves and walks past her. He can’t bear that stare. He feels like he was some kind of old computer and she was the brand new model which does everything better and in half of the time.

“Old models are usually more reliable,” Castiel says, sounding tired, almost old, and it makes no sense because Castiel should be timeless.

Except that he isn’t anymore.

“Models of what?” Jimmy asks back, not feeling much up for trying to sound angry.

“Everything,” Castiel answers, and then he’s silent.

Jimmy keeps on walking.

--

He doesn’t meet anyone else and when he gets to Pontiac he’s sweaty everywhere, he’s panting like he just ran a marathon and his feet are so dirty that it hurts what’s left of his sense of hygiene to look at the soles.

Well, he’s home, and apparently no one else is. Of course. One hundred years have passed. How could anyone be home anyway? Half of the houses are crumbling down and it looks like a ghost town.

“I meant, go home, Jimmy,” Castiel says, and Jimmy wants to curse him or pretend he didn’t understand, but he’s way past this. He sighs and walks forward. He doesn’t want to go home, he doesn’t want to see home, he doesn’t want to even glance at it, but it’ll be dark shortly and he can’t afford to do anything else.

So he closes his eyes and breathes and thinks fuck this, and he walks home.

Part III
 
 
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