literature

Salads and Sulfur - 5

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Dean picked a classroom near the end of one wing of the school building, so he’d have a better idea of the demon’s approach if she came looking for him. Sam and Oscar stood in one of the vents just down the hall from where Dean waited, and Oscar watched as Sam stooped over to draw on the floor beneath them with a hand-sized piece of chalk.

Neither Sam nor Oscar had any difficulty seeing the symbol as it took form. Oscar couldn’t make sense of most of the squiggles, but Sam clearly knew what he was doing. While he drew, he reminded Oscar again that he was not to leave the circle, and he’d be safe from the demon.

The buzz of nerves turned Sam’s voice into background noise. Even with the apparently demon-proof circle, Oscar’s heart pounded with fear. Fear for what would happen, fear for something going wrong with the symbol.

Fear for his friends.

Once Oscar stepped into the circle, Sam clapped him on the shoulder. “All good?” He asked. Oscar recovered and looked up at him with a nod. Sam smiled. “Don’t worry. We’ve done this before. We’ll take care of it and I’ll be back to getcha in no time. You’ll be back in your motel before check in time.”

Oscar chuckled dryly. “Yeah, alright.” If I don’t have a heart attack first.

He didn’t regret giving them what little head start he could. But Oscar’s nerves, trained for years and years to be wary of everything, were fracturing. It was far more excitement than he’d ever had to deal with.

While Sam walked away towards the vent opening into the classroom, Oscar’s imagination summoned up the notion that it could be the last time he saw him. A brave little person, climbing into the light to face his enemy, placed himself at high risk for strangers. Most of them wouldn’t even know, and they probably wouldn’t respect him as a person if they found out about him. People like Sam and Oscar and others were curiosities, objects, pets. Sam was putting his life on the line knowing it wouldn’t change any of that.

Oscar had no idea where bravery like that came from, but he took a deep breath and tried to find at least a shade of it in himself. If Sam could do all that, Oscar could wait for the fight to end without fear.

He listened for a long time and nothing happened. Then, far away down at the other end of the hall, a trek of an hour for Oscar, he heard it. Footsteps.

Whoever it was didn’t bother concealing their approach. There was one way out of that hall over than the windows, and they blocked it. Not long after Oscar heard them walking, the muffled sound of Dean’s voice in the nearby classroom fell quiet. The hunter shifted. Oscar heard his steps fall silent, felt the vibrations from them cease.

Oscar quaked. He could scarcely imagine the scene as the classroom door swung open and the demon strode in, taunting Dean for cornering himself.

“I thought being found by a hunter was going to ruin my fun before it started. But here you are, trapping yourself just for me,” the voice filled the room beyond, boastful and confident, and she sounded nothing like the sobbing woman Oscar had first heard in the motel room.

“Had to get your attention somehow,” Dean shot back. Oscar couldn’t see what happened. But he heard one of the student desks shift on the tile floor, and wondered if one of them had tried to make a quick lunge at the other. The demon snickered and Dean scoffed. Nothing big happened yet.

Suddenly, Oscar wished Sam had drawn his Devil’s trap closer to the vent. Not being able to see what was going on drove him nuts, much more than it would with normal human foot traffic. This was a fight with a demon, something that really shouldn’t exist but he knew always had. Sam and Dean had explained it to him months ago.

He took a terse breath. There was a tremor in the ground from a heavier step, one of the giants in the room stumbling or stomping for effect. Oscar’s face flushed as he thought about himself or Sam being caught under a stomp like that.

He had to hope that hadn’t just happened.

Dean was playing it safe in there. No sounds of a scuffle started up. Oscar, agonized by the wait, shuffled his feet and stared down at the Devil’s trap Sam had drawn for him. The white lines were supposedly keeping him safe, but there was nothing keeping Sam or Dean safe. It didn’t seem quite right.

He took a slow breath, and then another. After several deep sighs, Oscar stepped out of his safe circle and crept towards the vent to see what was happening in the room.

~~~~~

Sam kept himself hidden under the desk at the front of the classroom while Dean and the demon circled each other. He took a slow breath and released it, glad that Oscar was tucked away in the air ducts where he didn’t have to watch the enormous shoes stepping around and around in a wide circle. At least the little guy was safe from the tough part of the case.

Sam had his journal open and propped on one arm. The words on the page, Latin words copied from his father’s journal, would exorcise the demon and send it back where it belonged. Sam only needed the right moment to creep forward and read them off, and the deed would be done. Sam could go and check on Oscar, and they could close up another case before it got uglier.

“Listen, bright-eyes, as entertaining as this dance is, you killed that man. Your kinda fun counts as a one-way pass back to Hell,” Dean’s voice rumbled from above. Distracting the demon, keeping its attention away from the fact that it hadn’t caught Dean in its trap.

It was quite the opposite.

Huge leather boots stalked past, only a few feet from the desk. Sam caught a glimpse of scratches and scuffs in the leather, and dirt on the sides from the many steps Dean had taken in his hunting career. Despite the weight of those boots, the steps were light, and Sam knew he only felt them because of his small size.

The demon’s shoes were a pair of practical running shoes. Supportive and comfortable for the woman it was wearing, so she could handle the long days at her job standing and carrying things. Her steps were still heavier than Dean’s, lacking the hunter’s practice.

Sam flinched when those shoes, positioned near the student desks, suddenly sprang forward. The leather boots opposite them shifted their angle immediately before pushing Dean into a sidestep. They faltered a bit with the accompanying sound of a fist glancing off of Dean’s chest.

The boots braced on the floor once again with the shrill sound of rubber on linoleum, and Sam held his breath as he watched the fight of titans get underway. Droplets of water hit the floor, and the sound of sizzling reached Sam’s ears, the telltale sign of Dean throwing holy water on his foe.

The shoes all shifted weight again and the floor rumbled before suddenly, with a lunge from Dean’s trusty leather boots, the demon was thrown back towards the smaller desks. The force made a resounding crack as the demon hit, knocking a thick textbook to the floor. She fell to her hands and knees in surprise and the cold linoleum greeted her harshly. Sam could almost feel the malice wafting off the possessed woman.

He crept forward a few steps. Dean stepped towards the demon to follow up on his attack, and Sam reached the edge of his hiding place under the teacher’s desk in time to peer up and see the focused intensity on his brother’s face.

There was a reason Dean was such a formidable hunter before he ever stumbled across Sam hiding in his room at Trails West. He faced each enemy with a determination that earned him every success behind him.

He was a man that even monsters feared, and the demon was no exception as her black eyes widened. Dean lifted her harshly from the floor, and that was Sam’s chance. The  demon was well distracted by Dean’s furious attack.

He took another step forward before glancing away from the fight to the words on his journal page. Wasting no more precious time, Sam began the exorcism.

“Exorcizamus te, omnis immundus spiritus-”

He wasn’t sure what happened next. He heard both the giants above him grunting with the effort of grappling one another, and he heard more of that shrill sound of shoes on the tile. There was another impact of fist on flesh, and then the ground rumbled from a stomp, accompanied by more squeaking.

Sam broke his concentration to glance up, and it felt like time slowed to a molasses crawl. His hazel eyes went wide as the demon managed to squirm herself to a better angle despite Dean’s constant efforts to keep her attention on him alone..

And kick the textbook with all she had right towards the desk.

The book skidded right at him. Sam only caught a flash of Dean’s worried glance his way before he had to turn and run. He dashed away from the edge as fast as he could.

The book plowed into him like a truck, even after slowing down from the initial kick, and knocked his legs out from under him. Sam didn’t have a hope of outrunning or dodging the impact, and he fell backwards. His arms flew up and flailed, trying to keep his balance, but he toppled and the back of his head hit the hard cover of the book.

Things went dark.

~~~~~

Another second later, and the demon broke free of Dean’s hold like she’d never been bothered by it. She grabbed the front of his jacket, and whirled him around to throw him against the chalkboard with a painful-sounding thwack! Oscar winced. Things were going bad out there, quickly. He had to do something, but he had no idea what he could do.

Oscar’s legs hadn’t caught up with his doubts. He was already climbing out of the vent and into the classroom, dashing across the floor between empty desks that towered over him. He prayed over and over that the demon wouldn’t see him running along the floor while he came up with a plan.

Dean coughed from his slam into the wall, and the demon laughed mockingly at him. Oscar almost regretted tagging along when he heard that laugh. The black eyed thing, the demon, was making a mockery of Dean. One of the most terrifying humans Oscar had ever seen was being batted around like a crumpled piece of paper.

Oscar could only hope Sam was staying out of trouble wherever he was hiding, but after the scuffle had started, Oscar had no idea where he was. He had no idea if Sam was okay.

Oscar felt the rumbling in the ground and wished he’d listened. They’d said he’d be safe in that Devil’s trap even if they failed. It’d stop a demon in its tracks.

Oscar should have stayed.

He didn’t know what made him do it. But Oscar wanted to help, and he even had a half-formed plan in his head for how to do so. Normally he never would have been so adamant.

He’d just have to blame Sam if this didn’t work. He was the one who inspired such bold actions out of Oscar.

He spotted the one thing in the room that might help him. It put him close to the fight, and it was up on a cart, but it was his one shot. He was already digging his safety pin out of his bag when he changed direction and charged right for it.

He had to try.

~~~~~

Sam woke only seconds later to a pounding pain in his head and the sound of giants fighting. He could feel tremors in the ground around him and he heard the harsh squeal of the rubber soles of Dean’s boots against the waxy linoleum tiles.

Sam rolled over from where he’d fallen, looking around. He was still under the desk, thankfully out of range of the stomping shoes he could see out there. His head throbbed as if to remind him of how close things had been. He could have been knocked out for much longer, and he could be waking up to the sight of a motionless body lying out there.

There was still a chance.

He realized that, while he was still on the book, his journal was no longer in his hands. He got to his feet in hasty, jerky motions, and his gaze snapped side to side, seeking out the all-important book. He tried to ignore the floor quaking underneath him as he did.

Dean could handle himself just a little longer. Sam had his own job to do.

He spotted the journal near the leg of the desk, lying splayed on the floor. Sam bounded for it, darting across the book the demon had kicked. His focus was unbreakable.

Or so he thought until he stooped to pick up the journal. Sam happened to glance across the floor, aiming to keep track of the massive shoes out there as Dean and the demon circled each other. But a different, far more subtle movement captured Sam’s attention and wouldn’t let go.

Oscar was darting across the floor and between desks as quickly as his truly tiny legs would carry him.

“Oscar, no!” Sam cried, his eyes widening. Naturally, he was too far away for Oscar to hear.

If the demon saw him, it could change course. Decide to snuff out the little guy just because it could. Oscar should be safe back in the Devil’s trap!

Sam tensed, filled with indecision. He could try to run and get Oscar back to safety, or he could try to continue the exorcism. Dean was unable to do either. The choice was on Sam, but his brow furrowed as he watched Oscar.

The little guy, a lot speedier than he looked like he could be, darted towards a cart nestled between two desks. Sam watched as the safety pin in his hand glinted in the sparse light.

When Oscar threw his pin upwards, Sam broke out of his daze. Oscar was brave and resourceful, more than the little guy knew. His boldness showed in unexpected moments, even if the moment he chose this time was giving Sam a friggin’ heart attack.

Trusting in his judgment, Sam turned his gaze back to his journal to seek out the exorcism again even as Oscar darted up his sturdy string climbing line.

~~~~~

Oscar knew he didn’t have much time. He hauled himself hand over hand on the string, climbing inch after inch to the top of the dusty metal cart. The string quivered with every step the demon or Dean took. They were feet away, but Oscar didn’t stop.

He climbed over the edge of the cart, abandoning his safety pin where it latched on. Oscar’s cloth shoes made no sound as he darted to the side of the bulky machine occupying the cart. Oscar had no word for the thing, but he had seen them in use on the TV before.

He really hoped things hadn’t been too embellished.

The vents on the side formed the perfect ladder for him, and Oscar wasted no time climbing up onto the plastic machine. He ignored the enormous beings when he reached the top, instead scanning the wide, clear plastic expanse. His eyes fell on a long, thin marker, and he dashed for it. There was no time to celebrate, no time to even think.

That demon could gain an upper hand on Dean at any moment. Oscar needed to buy him time.

He struggled with the marker at first, considering the cap was nearly as long as his body. Oscar strained against it with all he had. His teeth clenched and he groaned with the effort until it slid loose. The sudden lack of resistance knocked him on his back.

The smell of the marker nearly made Oscar gag. He had to pull his shirt up to cover his mouth while he hefted the thing, turning the point towards the glass top of the machine. Praying he remembered things correctly, he began to draw, imitating the Devil’s trap Sam had drawn for him back in the vent.

It was shaky, and he very nearly lost control of the marker thanks to the tremors in the ground beneath him, but soon enough Oscar had what he remembered. He tossed the marker aside and twisted around to check on Dean.

The demon was toying with the human. They circled each other, Dean too wary to charge forward and risk losing any advantage. The hunter was breathing heavily and his green eyes were filled with a fighter’s focus, despite one of them already showing signs of a bruise around it.

Oscar watched with wide eyes and a pounding heart, waiting for the exact moment.

Just a few more steps …

Oscar scrambled towards the “on” switch, a faded red-orange square that he could curl up on. He dove at it, throwing as much of his weight into the plastic as he could.

The switch didn’t give.

“Dammit!” Oscar hissed, jumping to his feet. He backed up and primed himself for another run, ready to try again.

Deep breaths. In, out. The demon laughed. Oscar shuddered. More deep breaths. He sprinted forward again.

Oscar jumped as high as he could, tucking his legs in at the peak of his jump. As he fell back towards the switch, he kicked them downward again, praying against all odds that his small weight would be enough.
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