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10 April 2011 @ 05:51 pm
the earth died screaming 1/4  
Snowman was once a bird but he's forgotten how to fly and the rest of his feathers fell out; (...) Snowman is sad because the others like him flew away over the sea, and now he is all alone.

Oh, Jimmy, this is so positive. It makes me happy when you grasp this. Paradice is lost, but you have a Paradice within you, happier far. Then that silvery laugh, right in his ear.

I listened, thought Jimmy, but I didn't hear.


from Oryx and Crake, Margaret Atwood.



Jimmy Novak wakes up to sun filtering through leaves and hard wood pressing against his back.

For a second he’s startled, then he remembers. Remembering things is a tricky, tricky thing these days. He has come far enough to piece together a fairly complete picture, even if it still has its holes, but it took time to get there. And every time he wakes up, it always takes a second for him to place things. But this whole deal about where he spends most of his time, lately, is always the first thing that comes back to him. After all, when you spend the night and at times your day in a tree, you don’t want to forget why you’re there.

He remembers saying yes to Castiel clearer than anything else. It’s the second thing that comes to him; but he knows there’s something else that always escapes him every time. It’s just that he can’t grasp it, not in the first minutes after he opens his eyes.

It will come. Sometime.

Jimmy wraps himself in a bed sheet that is dirtier than he’d like, and sits up straighter before climbing down. The tree isn’t exactly comfortable, but the ground is worse and the one time he had tried to sleep down there he had a close encounter with a wolf that almost got him killed. So, tree it is, for now. There’s a wide branch, up far enough that he doesn’t have any company which isn’t birds, and it’s comfortable enough not to kill his back for good.

He takes a couple of steps forward and starts moving handfuls of earth and dirt. It’s a short while before a plastic bag appears. He takes it out of the hole it lies in, then quickly scans the contents. A suit jacket, a pair of matching trousers and a dirty dress shirt, all three worn out and full of holes. Then there’s a pair of ripped jeans and a worn out long sleeved shirt, along with a flannel that barely holds itself together. Then there’s another small bag inside, like one that a long time ago would be used to keep manicure tools. Jimmy sighs and takes out the jeans, the flannel, the small bag and the long sleeved shirt. Then he digs another hole, puts the plastic bag with the suit back there and covers it up with dirt and dead leaves. When he’s sure it’s hidden, he grabs his clothes and walks away for maybe a couple of minutes until he reaches a small clearing. There’s a lake there, with a small waterfall, and while staying here would be ill-advised because where there’s water there are animals and not all of them are harmless, he still tries to come here as often as he can.

His current lifestyle makes him generally filthy, and Jimmy knows that well enough, but there are things he knows from before, that he remembers from before.

He remembers hating feeling dirty. He remembers always telling his daughter

(Claire, Claire, where is Claire, where is –)

that she should always wash her hands at least before eating, and he can’t just scroll off that part of his brain that shouts hygiene is important, IMPORTANT!, even if rationally it’s useless. So Jimmy places his meager possessions on the ground, covers them with his dirty sheet (no point in washing that one), picks a tree to relieve himself and when he’s done he steps under the waterfall. It’s enough to wash away the grime, and he feels marginally better. He dries himself with the side of the sheet which looks less dirty and puts on the jeans and the shirts, then holds up his small manicure bag. He opens it and takes out a small razor and a tube of shaving cream which is half-used. He needs to waste less of it. He pours a bit of it on his palm, then carefully tries to spread it as far as he can. In the end it’s a thin layer and there’s still some stubble remaining on his face when he’s done shaving, but he looks human enough. Or as close to it as it gets.

It’s pretty much the only important thing for him, lately. He wants to look like a human, and possibly a dignified one.

Maybe because he needs to feel different from them.

But there’s a reason he tries not to even meet them, if he can avoid it.

(Jimmy wasn’t like this once.

He used to live in a nice house, not in a stupid tree. It was in Pontiac, Illinois. At times he wonders where he is. Is he far from Pontiac, is he not? He hasn’t found out yet.

Jimmy had a nice life, once. He had a beautiful wife and they had a daughter who was the apple of his eye and he sold advertisements for radio stations.

He remembers that because he thinks that half of the time, it’s advertisements he hears in his head.

STAY POSITIVE, they say, and IT DOESN’T TAKE MUCH TO TURN A HALF EMPTY GLASS INTO A FULL ONE!, and a lot of other things, and Jimmy mostly ignores them.

Mostly.)


When he deems himself presentable, he walks back to his tree, barefoot because his shoes had fallen apart a long time ago and he can’t exactly find another pair. Also, it would be useless. They’d only fall apart again. He folds the sheet, climbs back up on the tree, leaves it hanging on a branch lower than the one he sleeps on, and then he drops to the ground. There’s what used to be a refrigerator, oddly sticking out from the bushes. It has a combination lock. Jimmy found it when this situation had just been new for him, even if he can’t remember how exactly. It doesn’t keep anything cool anymore, but at least what food he manages to find doesn’t get eaten by insects.

He opens the lock and opens the refrigerator’s door. There’s a half-melted bar of chocolate inside which Jimmy can’t bring himself to eat

(Hershey’s Take Five, it was Claire’s favorite)

and then a couple of tangerines which shouldn’t be growing here, but you don’t say no to what you find and he has found stranger fruit growing on trees. He’s pretty sure that there never were banana trees in the United States (and he’s pretty sure that he has at least the continent pegged right). He shakes his head. His stomach rumbles and his jeans hang dangerously low on his hips (they used to fit. A while ago. He thinks it’s been eight months. Maybe nine. Maybe a year. He hasn’t exactly counted). He can’t survive on this much longer.

But he doesn’t have any weapon with him which isn’t that tiny, useless razor and Jimmy never killed anything in his life. Not when he was himself, at least.

(Dean and Sam Winchester did!, a merry voice that seems just out of an advertisement tells him. Maybe you should track them down! They would –

Shut up, Jimmy thinks.
)

But finding more fruit or anything edible means moving away from the handful of miles in the woods that separate Jimmy’s tree from them. He will have to meet them if he wants to find any kind of nourishment. It’s not like he’s worried that they will hurt him, they won’t, but he has his reasons not to be looking forward to a little chat.

He thinks he’ll postpone that. Just for a short while. He grabs a tangerine, closes the refrigerator, locks it up again and climbs back up the tree. He peels the tangerine’s skin off and turns it in his hands. It’s slightly bigger than the tangerines he used to eat in his other life. It has definitely more flesh, and it tastes sharper than the ones from before. He breaks it in half, then picks a slice and starts eating. He tries to take it slow, but his stomach rumbles and before he knows it, he has stuffed the rest of that half in his mouth and then the second half as well. His lips are smeared with sticky tangerine juice and he’s still hungry. He licks his lips, then runs his hand over his mouth and licks it clean, too, and he tries not to think about how there used to be napkins, once upon a time.

He sighs, shaking his head. Wondering how it came to this never helps.

“You are better than this, Jimmy,” Castiel says, and Jimmy shakes his head.

Because yes, that had to happen. There isn’t a day in which it doesn’t happen.

It’s just his luck that he’s living alone in a tree and going probably crazy and instead of his dead wife (because he knows that Amelia has to be dead; he might be going crazy, but delusional is something Jimmy never was, or well, at least not after he said yes) he hears the angel who possessed him in his head. Just like old times, and Jimmy fails to find it funny.

“Go away. You’re not real,” Jimmy replies, closing his eyes and leaning back against the tree’s trunk. He has been trying this since he woke up in full control of his own body, but the voice in his head is too stubborn to just leave him alone.

“But I am. I am, if you’ll just believe me,” Castiel answers, and Jimmy is just fucking grateful that he’s speaking in his real voice and not in Jimmy’s own. Then again, he’s making Castiel up, it’s his brain deciding.

“And you’re such a great help, aren’t you? Sorry, but I’m done believing you. I know you’re just in my head.”

Castiel doesn’t answer and when Jimmy opens his eyes, he stays silent.

Figures.

He shrugs and he wonders if he should be thankful that this weather is never cold.

--

Jimmy stays where he is for another couple of hours, maybe (he doesn’t know: the watch he’s wearing stopped at noon, December 12th, 2012) and then his stomach becomes too loud for him to ignore.

Alright, he thinks, let’s do this. He climbs down from the tree and checks that his old suit is well hidden. Then he grabs the sheet (if he doesn’t manage to get back here tonight he’ll need it), puts the manicure bag inside it, folds it around the bag eight times and tucks the bundle under his arm. Then he starts walking.

Since he doesn’t wear shoes anymore, the soles of his feet have hardened up. A lot. Still, it’s good for him, that there’s nothing that can cut you on the ground.

Advantages of living in a brave new world.

He walks steadily for one hour, following the path he always takes. It’s not like he actually has a great time passing there, but in order to grab food you need to reach this small, deserted town about four miles from his wood. In order to get there, you need to pass through what used to be a stretch of highway and which now… well, it isn’t much of that anymore.

It’s where they live.

He walks up to that highway and looks at them from afar. He counts them. Twenty. Exactly as many as they were last time, and the time before, and the one before, and so on. Just once they were fifteen, because five were off fulfilling their purpose, but none of them is doing that now.

He sighs and takes a breath and walks forward; when he’s some fifteen feet from them, the first three turn towards him. He has been silent, but they feel his footsteps. He looks at them for a second, trying to remember who they are.

Cassiel, Harachel and Jophiel, he thinks. Or well, it’s not exactly the real angels. But they don’t have names, so he goes for the next best option.

They’re three young girls, seven and nine and about eleven, respectively. They’ve been that age since he met them, but when you have an angel inside you, you don’t age. The first two are blondes, the third has red hair (all of them have either blonde or red hair), their skin is pale, they’re completely naked and they don’t have a name. Jimmy calls them like that because the only reason they exist is that the angel he names them after needs a vessel to be on Earth when he decides to take a walk down here. (From what Jimmy gathered, being an angel in his true form anywhere which isn’t Heaven is more of a pain than else.)

Christ. A lifetime ago, the bare idea of looking at naked girls his daughter’s age would have made him throw up and say a lot of very righteous things. But they’re not really girls. And he has learned to bypass it.

If his old preacher saw him now, he’d probably say that Jimmy was heading straight to Hell.

Right. Sure.

But the freakiest thing about it, is that all of them (no matter what age) have Dean Winchester’s eyes.

(He remembers freaking out the first time he met them. That first time they had asked him who he was waiting for, he had said Castiel, he was answered that Castiel was dead. Good, for a confirm that the voice in your head is there just because you’re going crazy.

The Castiel in Jimmy’s head had said, “I’m sorry. I tried to stop this.”

What is this, Jimmy had thought.

“It’s Heaven on Earth,” Castiel had said, but by now Jimmy is pretty sure it was just himself providing an answer just so that he wouldn’t lose it right there and then.
)

In Heaven on Earth, apparently, the only human-looking things around are… enhanced people made so that angels can use them as vessels. He doesn’t know why the hell would angels need human-looking vessels if they made a point of wiping out the human population from the planet (sometimes he has flashes of memories which he’s sure belong to Castiel. That’s how he knows), but maybe they see it like stating that they won and it’s just in order to shove it in Jimmy’s face. He’s the only one who can appreciate that statement, after all.

He thinks that the weather is always so warm because everyone except him is naked, but then again, they barely eat or drink, and they don’t use clothes or sleep or sweat or have sex, as far as Jimmy knows.

Just like angels, or a bit short of that.

He nods at the three of them and they nod back. By now, they think he belongs to some kind of weird species who looks similar to them just by mere chance. It’s not like they’re hostile or anything. They’re just scary (to him, because he doesn’t scare them. He wouldn’t scare anyone, the way he is, but it’s not the point). And they have green eyes with thick eyelashes which are just like Dean Winchester’s. Jimmy’s memory might not be entirely reliable, these days, but he remembers them well enough to be sure. That’s why he hates looking at them.

Then again, it’s not even their fault. What do they know? And what does Jimmy know, anyway, except for a couple of things?

Cassiel stands up and moves towards him, and Jimmy nods at her.

“Greetings, Jimmy,” she says. Her tone is always skeptical, like she doesn’t get why he’d need a name or why he’d have such a strange one.

“Greetings,” he answers her, trying not to show that he’s distressed. Not that he’s distressed much around these particular twenty anymore, they’re neighbors and they learned to live with each other, but they still creep him out. He raises a hand and nods towards the path bringing to the village. Cassiel nods, even if she doesn’t get why does he always go there once in a while, and he nods back before starting to move again.

Jimmy leaves them behind and walks faster in order to get to the town.

--

There’s a reason why he’d rather live in a tree than just staying here. The entire town is deserted and half of the houses are crumbling down in pieces. It’s creepy and decaying and no one is there, and it just makes Jimmy think that it’s a metaphor for his entire race. And he can’t allow himself to go there, not yet, and so he lives in a goddamn tree.

He goes straight to the local supermarket. The sliding doors are open, of course, and Jimmy just steps inside and grabs a plastic bag from under a check out. No one comes here. No one ever has come, since he broke in the first time. He holds his breath until he’s far from the meat section and its flies, and goes straight for the canned food. He grabs some Campbell tomato soup, beans, canned pears, cereal and whatever food he can find that has an expiration date after 2013. When he has enough stuff to last him two weeks, he changes aisle and grabs some new shaving cream, hoping that it’s still good. He can’t be sure, but who knows.

He looks up at the sky when he’s out, trying to decide what he should do. It took him four hours to get here, but he had just his sheet with him. Now he has a good seven pounds of things to bring with him, and it’ll slow him down. He’s sure he left around noon, because it was hotter than usual even if it’s never cold anyway. The sun is still high enough, but not that much, which means it’s mid-afternoon. All things considered, it’ll take him another five hours or more to go back. Which means it’d be dark, and he could get lost, and he doesn’t even have a weapon.

Not that he’d know how to use one. Ironic, that he had an angel inside him for years, and he wouldn’t even know how to use a gun.

He settles on staying here for the night, even if he’d really rather not. He sighs and tries to see if there’s any house which doesn’t give him the creeps just from glancing at it. He comes in front of one which seems good enough, but he glances at the window and almost gags. There’s a body on an armchair, and it looks like mummies in Egyptian museums used to look when Egyptian museums still existed. He walks away quickly and then he notices that in a shop’s window there are Swiss knives.

Well, he figures, no one will mind. He tries the door (it’s open), gets inside and grabs one which has scissors, a can-opener and a knife among the rest. Then he walks out and moves on.

In the end he settles on a one-storey house which has a locked door. If it’s locked, he probably won’t find corpses inside (well, it has worked until now). He uses the Swiss knife to break the door’s lock and slams it back behind him when he gets inside. There’s a chair near the entrance and so he drags it in front of the door. It’s useless, but one thing he has learned is that in this brave new world you can walk straight into a whole damn lot of dangerous animals other than wolves (he has an idea that zoos aren’t working anymore, and the warm climate probably is good for some tropical species as well), and as stated there’s a reason he sleeps in a tree.

There’s not much around; chairs, a table, a sofa. Everything is covered in dust. Jimmy finds the kitchen, but all the drawers are empty. Figures.

He finds a couple of bedrooms. One has walls painted in pale blue and a crib and toys all around, all covered in dust, and Jimmy slams the door as soon as he realizes what it is. Then he finds another one, which has a king sized bed, a bookshelf which is half empty and nothing else. He thinks the people in here must have fled; he’s also sure that it didn’t help them eventually, but he’s too tired to think about anything else. The bed is made, though. Sheets and blankets and everything. Jimmy figures that sleeping comfortably for one night won’t hurt him. He checks the all the drawers in the room first, and finds one full of linen sheets. He grabs a couple (one is red, one has pink flowers printed on it), figuring it’ll come a time when his current sheet will be useless, and then he raises the covers and crawls under them.

He tries not to think about anything before he falls asleep.

--

He dreams, he always dreams, but sometimes it’s things he remembers. Sometimes it’s not, and he’s almost sure that what he dreams are Castiel’s memories.

It should just show that he’s really going crazy, because if Castiel isn’t here anymore, why would Jimmy dream his memories?

It doesn’t matter. But he thinks they are, if only because he never manages to grasp the whole picture. It’s sentences and flashes, but he never sees it all. It’s like whatever he’s dreaming about is too big for him.

He might not be that off the mark.

He hears voices, tonight, and there are light flashes in the darkness, but it’s all there is.


It will be as it should, one voice says.

We’ll build Earth in our image, another chimes in.

Michael will, the first voice corrects the second.

We have no right, Castiel almost shouts, and Jimmy would recognize Castiel’s voice everywhere.

You became weak, the first voice says again, and then there’s blinding light and pain and IwishIhadhadthetimetotellDean, echoes into Jimmy’s head, and then it’s over.

--

Jimmy wakes up shivering, his lips parted; he thinks he has screamed. That wouldn’t really surprise him. He breathes, slow, and glances out of the window. It’s night. He doesn’t know how far into it, but he must have slept at least seven hours if it was afternoon when he let himself drift out. He stands still, just breathing, feeling thankful that the comforter is keeping him warm. He feels chilly, down to the inside of his bones. It was that dream, he’s sure. He just lies and breathes and tries not to cry or move, and he just tries to feel the warmth around him.

“What did I do to deserve this?” he whispers, quietly, to no one. “Castiel, you son of a bitch, what did I do?”

This time, Castiel’s voice doesn’t answer.

It’s not a surprise. If Castiel was real, Jimmy doubts he’d have an answer for that. And if he’s in Jimmy’s head, well, Jimmy himself can’t come up with it.

--

Jimmy gets out of bed at dawn; there’s no point in staying anymore, not when there’s light outside. He opens the drawer with the linens again and finds a couple of heavy blankets; he weights the pro and cons of bringing them with him (they’re heavy and they would slow him down, but they could be useful) and then he decides to pick one. He moves to the kitchen, eats some of the cereal that he had taken from the supermarket the day before and then goes to the bathroom, figuring that he might as well use the one chance he has to clean himself up in a civilized place. There’s water, but it’s cold; Jimmy figures it’s good enough that there’s water at all. He washes his face and when he looks at himself in the mirror he can’t help wincing. He’s thinner than the last time he has looked at himself in a proper mirror, his clothes are falling to pieces and there are dark bags under his eyes. He has a couple sunburns on his face and neck and in comparison to… to them, he looks like a failure of evolution.

Maybe it isn’t that wrong of a definition.

Jimmy shaves and washes his face again, and then he picks up his plastic sack, his sheets and his blanket and steps out of the house.

He also grabs some sunblock in the supermarket and smears it over his face before marching straight out of the town. The sign with its name isn’t there anymore, so he doesn’t even know where he is.

It figures.

He walks slowly, not wanting to tire himself too much. He never was one for working out, even if he always kept himself in shape; but since he woke up in the brave new world he found himself in, he has lost most of the muscle mass he had, which wasn’t much in the first place. And it means that carrying his entire bundle is enough to tire him.

Jimmy tries not to think. If he does, he might just get angry and it wouldn’t do.

part II
 
 
feeling: okayokay
on rotation: such a scream - tom waits